Disability Etiquette Tips

UCP > Helpful Info > Disability Etiquette Tips

Respect and etiquette are key elements for successfully communicating today.  Yet for some people unfamiliar with developmental disabilities, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. That’s why UCP of Sacramento and Northern California has the following etiquette tips to help you become a more effective communicator when working with people with disabilities.  These disability and etiquette tips and guidelines address specific issues that frequently arise when communicating with people living with developmental disabilities.  However, because everyone is different, these guidelines only hold true for most individuals most of the time.

General Etiquette Tips for Communicating with People with Disabilities
  • Speak directly to that person rather than through a companion or sign language interpreter when talking to a person with a disability,
  • Communicate clearly. It is appropriate to offer to shake hands when introduced to a person with a disability. If in doubt, ask. And remember that a smile is always appropriate.
  • If you offer to help, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen to the person or ask for instructions.
Persons Using Wheelchairs Etiquette Tips
  • When speaking with a person who uses a wheelchair or a person who uses crutches, place yourself at eye level in front of the person to facilitate the conversation.
  • Leaning on, or hanging on to, a person’s wheelchair is like leaning on, or hanging on to, a person and is generally considered annoying. The chair is part of the personal body space of the person who uses it.
  • Never patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.
Disability that Affects Speech Etiquette Tips
  • Listen attentively when you’re talking with a person who has difficulty speaking. Be patient and wait for the person to finish, rather than correcting or speaking for the person.
  • If necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, a nod or shake of the head.
  • If you have trouble understanding, never pretend to understand.  Instead, repeat what you have heard and allow the person to respond. The response will clue you in and guide your understanding.
Cognitive Impairment Etiquette Tips
  • Keep your communication simple. Use short sentences.
  • Allow the person time to respond.
  • Do not talk down to them.
Visual Disability Etiquette Tips
  • If meeting a person who is visually impaired, always identify yourself and others who may be with you.  Remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking conversing in a group.
  • When departing, don’t leave the person without informing him/her.
  • Don’t push or pull someone if you are asked to guide them. Instead, offer your arm and allow him or her to reach for you, then walk slightly ahead. Point outdoors, stairs, and curbs as you approach them.
Hearing Impaired Disability Etiquette Tips
  • To get the attention of a person who is deaf, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand.
  • Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly, and expressively to determine if the person can read your lips. Not all people who are deaf can read lips.
  • Talk directly to the person even when a sign language interpreter is present.

Source: Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)