Breaking Separate Myths from Facts

Do you shake hands with a person with a disability? Should you grab the arm of a blind man to assist him? How do you greet someone who is hearing impaired? 

Here are some tips for the non-disabled public on interacting with people with disabilities.

  • Don't lean or hang on to a person's wheelchair. The chair is part of the body space of the person who uses it.
  • When offering assistance to a person with a visual impairment, allow the person to take your arm so you can guide rather than propel or lead
  • Treat adults like adults. Call a person by his or her first name only when extending that familiarity to all others present.
  • Speak directly to the person with a disability rather than through a companion.
  • It is appropriate to offer to shake hands. Even people with limited hand use or those who wear an artificial limb can shake hands.
  • To get the attention of a person with a hearing problem, tap the perosn on the shoulder or wave your hand. When speaking, look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively to establish if he/she can read your lips.
  • Offer assistance to a person with a disability if you want, but wait until your offer is accepted before you help. Listen to any instructions the person may give.
  • Because a person is not a condition, avoid referring to an individual by the condition he/she has, such as "epileptic" or "a post-polio". Say "a person who has epilepsy", or "had polio".
  • Emphasize the uniqueness and worth of all people rather then the difference between people. Your concentrated efforts can do much to eliminate the "one of them" versus "one of us" attitude that hampers proper acceptance of individuals.
  • From the "Disability Etiquette" and "Portraying People With Disabilities in the Media" brochures, which are available through the Easter Seal Society's New Jersey office in Milltown.