Interacting with people with disability
When it comes to interacting with a person with a disability, many people find themselves wondering about the best ways to relate with them. The plain truth is that there is no “perfect way” to interact with people with disabilities. It is mostly a factor of individual preference.
Although the general rule of interacting with a person with a disability is to have a cordial demeanor, there are some tips you can follow to help you feel more self-assured relating to disabled people. We have put together some of these tips below.
Be yourself and interact normally
One mistake people often make when they encounter a person with a disability is changing the way they talk or appear. They usually do this because they want to prevent saying or doing something the person with a disability may find offensive.
However, any person with a disability would prefer to be treated like a normal person too. So it is best to just be yourself around them. Don’t pretend or change your character. With a simple “hello,” you can start a conversation without any problems.
Also, when relating to a disabled person, we may be tempted to change our tone, pace, and language. But unless you are required to do so – based on the type of disability, this would mean you are assuming the person has low cognitive abilities, which would most likely offend them. Stick to the way you usually interact, and you will have no issues.
Assist them politely
Most people with disabilities try to be as independent as they possibly can. So whenever you come across a person you reckon needs help, make sure you offer to help politely. Do not over-insist as this can make them feel the negatives of their disability even more. Always ask politely and give them the chance to realize that you genuinely want to support them.
Respect their personal space and property
One thing you should always keep in mind is that people with disabilities like keeping their personal spaces, well, personal. Try as much as possible to interact with them without infringing on their own space too much. Other things most disabled people see as personal are their assisting instruments and property like walking sticks, wheelchairs, and others.
We advise that you obtain permission from the individual before attempting to touch or drive the wheelchair. Also, avoid unnecessarily touching any other personal assisting aid without its owner’s permission.
Extra Tip: If you see a person with vision impairment using a guide dog, do not pet or interact with the dog as it is most likely to be working.
And if the person with the disability has an NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) plan, be aware that they may have chosen an NDIS plan management option, where a third party manages their funding and assists them with coordinating their support services. They may also have an NDIS support worker to help them with different aspects of their life. So, if you are offering assistance, it is important to check with the person first and if they have a plan manager or support worker, work with them to ensure that the support you are providing aligns with their NDIS plan and support needs.