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If you look at the statistics, you will realize that 61 million adults in the US have a disability. Almost one in five people have some handicap. And the rate of functional impairment suggests that mobility is the most common health challenge, with about 13.7% of adults finding it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Besides, people are dealing with cognitive impairment, serious hearing difficulty, vision problems, and others.
Since specific impairment can cause activity limitations and affect different people differently, you must recognize this and be responsible for your behavior towards them.
Understanding issues with the disabled can help you approach them without any fear or discomfort. At the same time, you would not need to avoid or restrict your interactions with them. When this happens, the misconceptions about them and their life will naturally die down. You will also be able to view the life of your dear ones with disabilities in a different light and know what they can do. On this note, let’s explore a few things that you should remember when talking to a disabled person.
Small Things to Keep in Mind When Talking to a Disabled
- Stop telling these people ‘you are brave’ or ‘you are inspiring’ because it may sound condescending to them. However, you can compliment them on their looks as disability doesn’t mean the person is any less attractive or ugly. It can only make that person feel good about himself or herself.
- If the person is using a hearing aid, it doesn’t mean you have to talk loudly or speak with a pause as you would do with a baby to make it understand. The person will let you know if he or she needed you to speak louder or clearly.
- Instead of asking the person about his disability, inquire about his access needs. You don’t need to know his medical history to help him. You need to understand what he may require in a particular situation.
- Don’t assume that a person with a disability needs assistance. Ask them first if they need any help and then find a good personal assistant, also called ‘en bra personlig assistent’ in Swedish Language. Also, you should talk to them directly instead of the other person with them if you have to inquire about them.
- Physical disability has got more to do with logistical difficulty than anything else. Hence, stop expecting people with disabilities to have some creative solutions to perform their tasks. Their disability doesn’t define them or their identity and motivation.
Apart from these, there are other occasions and public places where you can be careful so that you can avoid causing inconvenience to them. These include:
These are a necessity for people with disabilities. Hence, don’t use these at a public facility (for example, airport, shopping malls, transit stops, etc.) for your convenience. Keep them free for those who need these.
Accessible restroom stalls
These areas tend to be spacious so that wheelchairs and the accompanying people can get in and help the disabled quickly. Hence, don’t carry your luggage inside. Also, avoid rushing when someone with a disability is at the stall, waiting for his or her turn.
Don’t park your car on the zebra lines featuring next to a handicapped parking zone. These spots are for disabled people to help them reach their wheelchairs. If you park your vehicle there, you can obstruct their way and also get a ticket for it.
Wheelchairs or assistive devices
Don’t touch a wheelchair or assistive device of the person without asking him or her even when you intend to help. You could be invading their personal space. Also, make sure you don’t trouble service dogs. They are not pets. Hence, any provocation from your end can prove life-threatening for the person who is with them.
Be careful at the curb, higher thresholds, and other such obstructions in the doorway. These are not just inconvenient for disabled people. Also, during emergencies, these can be highly risky for their lives as they cannot cross them as quickly as others.
In the end, it is necessary to realize that disabled people have the same needs as you. They also need relationships. But, most often than not, people identify them with their disabilities or wheelchairs. If you become sensitive towards this aspect, you will not find difficulty relating to them.
Your approach and perception of them will drastically improve. You will not see them as an object of empathy. Instead, you will start viewing them as complete human beings who can have individual interests, opinions, and talents. As a result, you will be able to include them wherever possible.
Nowadays, awareness events and education programs have become a natural source of information on these matters. You can attend them to learn the workplace and community etiquette that can come in handy while dealing with people with disabilities. Also, you should encourage your children to be present in the disability awareness classes where teachers give useful insights on responsible behavior towards these people. For example:
- Holding out a hand for a handshake with the person
- Focusing on the person when talking to him or her
- Talking about their achievements, qualities, and interests but disabilities
Small steps from your end can make a difference to the lives of the disabled and your also. It can help create a coherent world for everyone, with everyone being more able and self-reliant. A passage for overall growth and positivity will open up, which is essential for everyone.
There are over one billion people with disabilities all over the world. They are suffering from mental, physical, intellectual, sensory, and other such barriers. To restore balance in the world, you need to make sure they also get to participate in society as much as others. And it can be possible if you are ready to change your views and stereotypes about them. Things may not take a drastic turn, but if you continue to practice, something positive can come out of it to everybody’s favor.