Disability Etiquette

Things to Remember:

Some people feel uncomfortable when interacting with a person that has a disability because they don’t know how to act. The most important thing to remember is to use common courtesy and be respectful.

Don’t make assumptions about people or their disabilities. If you have a question about what to do, how to do it, what language or terminology to use, or what assistance to offer, ask them. That person should be your first and best resource and generally they are happy you asked.

Ask before you help. Before you help someone, ask if they would like help. Don’t be offended if they decline your offer of assistance. Speak normally. Some people have a tendency to talk louder and slower to people with disabilities; don’t.

Use people-first language when referring to people with disabilities. Put the person first and then the disability. For example, say “a man who is blind” rather than “a blind man.” It is useful to know that some terms are considered hurtful, even if they had been used officially in the past.. like the term “retarded.”

Be aware of personal space. Some people who use a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair, walker or cane, see these aids as a part of their personal space. Don’t touch, move or lean on mobility aids. Never touch or distract a service dog without first asking. Also never grab a person who is blind by the arm; instead ask them if they require assistance. If they need assistance, stand alongside the person and let them take your arm just above the elbow so you can guide them.

For additional tips for communicating with and about people with disabilities, go to the United States Department of Labor website.

For disability information on classroom challenges, instructional strategies and resources, visit the PANDA website.