Professional

Etiquette Basics for Interacting with People with Disabilities in the Workplace (or Anywhere)

The D.C. Office of Disability Rights offers a two-fold approach to etiquette for interacting with people with disabilities: a humorous video and a serious do & don't list.

5/22/2019

Sometimes infusing a little humor into a not-so-funny matter actually helps. Haven't you been in an uncomfortable situation and a lighthearted joke helped to diffuse the stress? Well, that's sort of the approach that the D.C. Office of Disability Rights took when they produced this short video about general rules of etiquette for interacting with people with disabilities. You'll definitely laugh as you watch this video, but the importance of disability sensitivity training is still present and by no means compromised by the humor.

Interacting with People with Disabilities

It is important to maintain decorum and courtesy when interacting with people with disabilities. Below are a few important guidelines, courtesy of the Office of Disability Rights, to keep in mind whether engaging colleagues, friends or anyone with disabilities.

General:

  • Remember that people with disabilities are aware of what they can and cannot do. Leave this determination to them.
  • Always offer assistance before assisting. When assisting, ask for instruction and clarify what kind of assistance the person wants and needs.
  • Respect all assistive devices (i.e. canes, wheelchairs, crutches, communication boards, service dogs, etc.) as personal property. Unless given specific and explicit permission, do not move or touch them.
  • Refrain from commenting on the userʹs ability to operate or use the assistive device.
  • Always direct your communication to the individual with a disability (for example, a deaf individual using a translator.) If a person is accompanied, do not direct your comments to the companion.
  • Use a typical speaking tone and style. If a louder voice is necessary, the person will ask you to do so.
  • Address people with disabilities by their first names only when extending the same familiarity to all others.
  • Remember that people with disabilities are interested in the same topics of conversation as people who do not have disabilities.

When Providing Accommodations (for example, setting up workplace meetings):

  • Make it easy to ask for and obtain accommodations – clearly indicate verbally and in writing the availability of appropriate accommodations and modifications.
  • Begin by opening a dialogue with the individual to find out what needs (if any) exist.
  • Often people may ask for accommodations without using the word “accommodation.”
  • Don’t automatically steer people with disabilities to disability‐only services.
  • Remember people with disabilities are all very different and that accommodations will vary depending on the specific circumstances.
  • Openness and creativity are important when working with a person with a disability in determining appropriate and effective accommodations.
  • Discussions about accommodations should remain private.
  • Provide many opportunities for feedback from the person with a disability.

What would you add to this etiquette tip list? Share with us on Facebook and Twitter.

This information was originally published by D.C. Office of Disability Rights and is reprinted with permission.

Feature image credit: hrps.org

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