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DISABILITY ETIQUETTE

If you have not had many interactions with persons with disabilities, you may not know exactly how to act. For example, you may ask yourself “how do I talk to someone in a wheelchair?” or “how do I interact with someone who is blind or deaf?” This article provides some guidelines to ensure respectful and equal treatment of people with disabilities.

Things to remember

  • Individuals with disabilities are people!
  • Individuals with disabilities are whole people!
  • They expect to be treated with the same dignity and respect that you do.
  • Just because someone has a disability does not mean he/she is disabled.

Disability Etiquette

  • Remember, he/she is a person, NOT a disability.
  • Never patronize them by patting them on the head or back.
  • Offer to shake their hand, even if it appears as if they have limited use of their arms or have an artificial limb. Simply the gesture will help them feel accepted and create a warmer environment for communication.
  • For those who cannot shake hands, lightly touch the individual on the shoulder or arm to welcome their presence.
  • Look at and speak directly to the person, not through a companion, care-taker, or interpreter.
  • Treat adults as adults.
  • Don’t apologize if you use an expression such as “I gotta run” or “See you later” that relates to the person’s disability. These expressions are part of everyday language and it is likely the apology will be more offensive than the expression.
  • Don’t pet or feed service animals or guide dogs as they are working.
  • When giving directions, make sure you consider things such as the weather, locations of ramps/curb-cuts, and other physical obstacles that may hinder travel for individuals with disabilities.

Speech Disability Etiquette

  • Never assume….many people mistakenly identify these individuals as being mentally retarded or mentally ill. Make sure to be patient in finding out which communication method works best for them.
  • Be 100 percent attentive when conversing with an individual who has difficulty speaking.
  • If you are in a noisy and/or crowded environment, don’t panic. Just try and move to a quieter location to talk.
  • Let them complete their own sentences. Be patient and do not try to speak for them. Do not pretend to understand; instead, tell them what you do understand and allow them to respond.
  • Do not be corrective, but rather, encouraging.
  • When necessary, it’s OK to ask short questions that require short answers.

Wheelchair Etiquette

  • Things to Remember
    • Individual who use wheelchairs may require different degrees of assistance.
    • Some who use wheelchairs may also use canes or other assistive devices and may not need his/her wheelchair all the time.
  • Do not automatically assist the individual without permission. It is ok to offer assistance. However, if the offer is not accepted, respect his/her request!
  • If you will be speaking with an individual in a wheelchair for more than a couple minutes, find a place where you can sit down to give the individual a more comfortable viewing angle.
  • A person’s wheelchair is part of his/her own personal space. Never move, lean on, rock, or touch his/her wheelchair without permission. In addition to being rude, it can be dangerous.
  • Do not assume that having to use a wheelchair is a tragedy. Wheelchairs can be a means of freedom to fully engage in life.

Hearing Disability Etiquette

  • Do not shout at a hearing impaired person unless they request you to. Just speak in a normal tone but make sure your lips are visible.
  • Keep conversations clear and find a quiet location to communicate.
  • If you are asked to repeat yourself, answering “nothing, it’s not important” implies the person is not worth repeating yourself for. It is demeaning; be patient and comply.
  • Show consideration by facing the light source and keeping things (such as cigarettes or your hands) away from you mouth while speaking.

Visual Disability Etiquette

  • When meeting someone with a visual disability, identify yourself and others with you (e.g. “Jane is on my left and Jack is on my right.”). Continue to identify the person with whom you are speaking.
  • If you go out to dinner with an acquaintance with a visual disability, ask if you can describe what is on the menu and what is on his/her plate.
  • When walking with someone with a visual impairment, offer them your arm for guidance. They will likely keep a half-step behind to anticipate curbs and steps.

 

(Taken from the University of Northern Iowa’s Office of Compliance and Equity Management)

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My Disabilities Do Not Define My Life

 Robin J. Titterington

I was born with spina bifida (think Baby Noor!) When I was 19, I became deafened from an antibiotic given to save my life from severe kidney infections. When I was 33, my kidneys failed and I began dialysis. I had a transplant and have been on dialysis for nine years. I am not eligible for another transplant due to my worsening scoliosis. Yet I hesitate to submit my story.

Why? Because my disabilities do not define my life. Our culture is such that if you do not look like people in magazines and in movies, it is assumed you have a sad life. I am a Christian, a woman, a sister, an aunt, mom to my pets “the fabulous furries,” a devout Braves fan, and a tree-hugger. I can think of many more adjectives before I would arrive at “person with a disability.”

My life is not so different from other single women: I graduated from college (with honors), I hold a Master’s degree from New York University, I am a certified public manager, and I have 20 years of full-time work experience in rehabilitation administration. I own my house (which I share with the fabulous furries), I drive my car. I have traveled to most of the 50 states (in the USA), Mexico, Canada and Austria. In fact, during both trips to Austria I received dialysis treatments.

Why do I feel I have a happy, satisfied and peaceful life? No doubt most of it is due to my faith. I know I am never alone. That is not to say I never have a bad day, but knowing I am not alone and that I am loved by my Lord gets me through the rough times. I am a Christian sister and my sisters are wonderful spiritual role models. I feel challenged by learning from them to continue to grow in faith.

Of course, none of this would be possible without my parents. Sadly, they both passed away when I was relatively young, my mom died when I was 14, my dad when I was 24. I am now 51 and grew up in a time when expectations were not high for someone with a severe disability. Yet there was never a question that I might not go to college, just like my older brothers did. I am sure they must have had to fight a lot to get treatments and education for me but their expectations of me were high. (And my family laughs a lot too!) We are now on the second generation of “Give me a ride, Aunt Robin!” (a TV reality show in the US) I hate to brag but I have been told I am more fun than Six Flags!

Lastly, there are my friends. Some are close by in location, some are not, but all are close by in thought and prayer. I have a group on my email listing of “earth angels” and one email to that group and I know I am lifted in prayer by many.

 

…culled from beliefnet

 

NEVER LET DISABILITY LIMIT YOUR HORIZON, THE SKY COULD BE YOUR STARTING POINT

 

AUTISM… PART I

When it comes to the disability world, with respect to the Nigerian society, the word, “autism” is a relatively strange term. Strange indeed to parents, teachers and even professionals. Little wonder then, that in many parts of the world, people have not even heard about the term, nor understood its nature.
Normally, as children struggle through school, they encounter a lot of difficulties. These difficulties could naturally be inherent in the child or in the child’s environment. However, conditions like autism make a colossal contribution to a child’s inability to learn. Therefore, understanding autism is a n issue that gives great concern to everyone who comes in contact with children with this condition. At the moment, the awareness level is generally low among parents and teachers.
Knowledge about the nature of autism, its characteristics and identification strategies would go a long way in ensuring the recognition of its symptoms in children as early as possible.
Definition:
The word “autism” was coined from a Greek word “autos” which means “self” by a renowned psychiatrist Blueler, who observed in 1911 the behavioural traits tending withdrawal into self.
Autism is a biological disorder that occurs in an individual before birth and runs through life presenting different development difficulties at all age level.
Autism in a child results in delayed development and deviance from normal growth and development processes in three areas of behaviour. These are:
– Social relationship and interactions
– Language and communication
– Activities and interests.
Autism as a deficiency makes a child unable or unwilling to put together the primary building blocks of experience. It affects the senses, speech, actions and emotions. This autistic child does not move naturally from one sound to another, from one word to another and from one experience to another like other normal developing children.
According to APA, 1994 and WHO 1992, autism is a pervasive developmental disorder. It is located on the same continuum with mental retardation on one side, and specific development disorders, on the other side.
Researcher’s opinions are divided as to the causes of autism, while earlier researchers believed that autism was caused by poor parenting, recent researchers have proved that autism has clear biological origin caused by abnormal brain development, structure and/or neurochemistry. Autism can be best viewed as a behavioural syndrome, which may be produced by multiple biological causes often traceable to the brain functioning.
Autism causes the following difficulties in individuals:
– Poor reciprocal social interaction
– Restrictions in verbal and non-verbal reciprocal communication
– Restricted use of imagination
– Restricted interest
– Repetitive movements
– Extreme withdrawal from environmental stimulus
– Bizarre behaviour…
… To be continued. (Culled from “The Special Child” magazine)