a wheelchair means the end of a fulfilling life. ____
speech is a sign of a slowed mental process. ____
a vision disability means you are unable to give directions
with disabilities are usually in need of, or want, assistance.
people who are deaf read lips. ____
blind means a person lives in total darkness. ____
impaired and hard of hearing are the same thing.
Having a mobility disability does not mean that you have
other disabilities. ____
people can have excellent speech. ____
deaf people cannot make sound with their voice. ____
a vision disability gives someone super-hearing, super-touchor
slow speech does not mean you can't or don't want to talkfor
spelling is a form of Sign Language. ____
paralyzed from the waist down cannot have children.
with communication disabilities may be mistaken for a person
who is drunk. ____
an etiquette handbook on interacting with people with disabilities?
people with disabilities still encounter situations like this:
Bob and Susan had planned to enjoy a long and well deserved
evening out on the town. They had many things to celebrate.
Susan had recently been promoted to a full partner at her
marketing firm. Bob had just completed three weeks of training
for a new position as a service manager. But the icing on
the cake was the five-month, 23-day and four-hour anniversary
of the birth of their daughter, Michelle. Tonight Michelle
was with grandma, and this was their first evening out together
in nearly six months.
Italian restaurant they selected had a warm and charming old
world decor and the food smelled heavenly. The evening was
perfect, that is, until the waiter arrived. Susan's heart
sank when she felt the waiter tense up and focus all of his
attention on Bob. She became uneasy when she realized ordering
dinner might become another unpleasant and potentially demeaning
sir, what can I get you this evening?" asked the waiter.
would you like, Susan?" Bob asked.
far, so good." Susan thoughtfully assured herself. "I'll
have the three-pasta salad and the lasagna."
sorry sir, we are out of the lasagna; she'll have to order
something else." The waiter was talking to Bob.
went off in her mind, "Here we go again!" Susan
began to dread what she knew would follow. "Excuse me!"
she said. "I would appreciate it if you would talk to
me about my order."
herself on speaking in a cool, even tone. This was the third
such encounter this week. She did not appreciate continually
having to defend her right to be treated with dignity and
respect; especially when she was a paying customer.
YOU LIKE TO ORDER SOMETHING ELSE?" The waiter's speech
was deliberately loud and slow. He stretched out each word
as he spoke it.
a new waiter!" She was not happy with the waiter's response.
"I would like to see your manager. Now."
thought to herself, "It's the 90's! Why do I still have
to deal with people like this?"
looked surprised and confused. He gave a short nod and hurried
over to the serving station to find his supervisor.
you for letting me handle this, Bob. I know you'd like to
jump in and defend me. But you know, that might only reinforce
the idea that I can't or shouldn't speak for myself."
"I'm sorry this happened tonight, Sue, but you're doing
now returned to the table, followed by someone dressed in
a dark suit.
there something I can help you with?" His pocket pin
identified him as "K. Samson."
Susan found herself having to assert her right to be treated
with the dignity every customer is entitled to. "Are
you the manager?"
it the policy of your restaurant to treat your customers with
I ordered my dinner, why did your waiter tell my friend that
I would have to order something else? Why didn't he talk to
am sorry you were inconvenienced. I will be sure to talk to
him about this."
next time your waiter, or any waiter, waits on a customer,
make sure they talk directly with the person who is ordering.
It is common courtesy."
apologize for the situation. How can we serve you this evening?"
scenario was based on a real event that happened when a couple
I know went out for a nice, quiet dinner. The names and place
were altered, but the situation was real.
example, Susan had a disability. It doesn't matter what kind
of disability she had. Customers are customers. They all deserve
to be treated with the same dignity and respect.
and many hours were involved in the production of the final
version of this manual. The entire staff of the Region
VI Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program through
the leadership of Phil Stinebuck, Training Coordinator,
compiled, revised, and edited this work. We gratefully acknowledge
the contributions of Burt Pusch and Danielle Strickman.
an increased understanding of disability we gain a greater
awareness of the impact of attitudinal and environmental barriers
in preventing people with disabilities from fully participating
in society. This is the overriding purpose for
which this manual was written. We must first understand disability
to understand the obstacles facing individuals with disabilities
in participating as full citizens in this country.
Only then can we address the barriers in the environment and
what put those barriers in the environment - Ourselves!! Our
individual attitudes collectively have resulted in an indifferent
and inaccessible society. Therefore, we must remove the attitudinal
barriers to assure equal access to, and full participation
reason, the University of Arkansas authorizes the use
of this manual, it's reprint, and dissemination where appropriate
to help achieve this purpose.
have been many efforts to try to increase the awareness of
the general public regarding the abilities and strengths of
persons with disabilities.
person may have few opportunities to get to know a person
with a disability. He/she may have had a family member or
a friend with a disability, but usually their experiences
are limited to one or two people.
many people haven't had an opportunity to get to know people
with different types of disabilities in a variety of settings:
such as doctors, lawyers, business owners, customers, employees,
most people have only a modest idea of how to interact with
persons with disabilities. Educating the public on who people
with disabilities are, and what they can do, hasn't been a
very high priority. Available information is often sketchy
or based on misinformation which comes from traditional,
often outdated, beliefs about people with disabilities.
with People with Disabilities: An Etiquette Hand-book"
was put together in order to promote a better understanding
of the abilities of people with disabilities and to offer
some helpful advice in terms of communicating and
interacting with people with disabilities.
handbook is designed to do three things:
myths about people with disabilities will be explored and
demythed. New ideas about how people with disabilities wish
to be perceived will be presented.
Provide Communication and Etiquette
will introduce some basic etiquette and communication principles
for interacting with persons with disabilities.
Reduce Attitudinal Barriers
barrier is a way of thinking or feeling which results in behavior
that limits the potential of people with disabilities from
being independent or full participants in society.
this book offers general guidelines on interacting with persons
with disabilities, it is not at all inclusive. Every person
has his or her own preferences in terms of how they want to
be treated and what they would like to be called. So the best
advice may be, "When in doubt, ask."
The following basic ideas should be kept in mind when interacting
with all persons with disabilities, regardless of the disability.
People with Disabilities are People
idea promoted throughout this booklet is that people with
disabilities are just that, people. They have the same desire
to participate in, and contribute to their communities as
everyone else. They also have the same desire as everyone
else to be treated with dignity and respect.
People with Disabilities are Whole People
with disabilities are whole people. Having a disability is
only one aspect of a person's life. There are many more parts
to a person's life than simply having a disability. For example,
someone may be an artist, father, employer, friend and also
be a person with a disability.
Having a Disability, Doesn't Mean a Person is Disabled
a physical difference doesn't automatically make a person
disabled. Many factors come into play: attitudes, the percentage
of the population with the same physical difference, and environmental
accommodations are just a few.
most people who wear glasses don't think of themselves as
being visually disabled. Yet, eyeglasses and contact lenses
are corrections for a vision disability. With this special
accommodation, people are able to work, play, and live in
society, wearing eyeglasses or contacts has become so acceptable
that we don't think of it as an accommodation for a physical
Everyone Uses Technology To Do What Their Bodies Cannot
years ago, we used horses and oxen to compensate for the inability
of our legs to travel great distances in a safe and timely
manner. Hundreds of years later, we designed devices that
moved us faster, further, and more comfortably. Today, we
matter-of-factly use technology to change our environment
to accomplish what our bodies cannot. In fact, our feet cannot
carry us in the same amount of time, or with the same amount
of comfort as planes, cars, and even shoes can.
so used to the idea of controlling the world around us that
we forget just how dependent we are on the devices we've created.
We are able to travel from coast to coast in about four hours.
Several centuries ago, the same trip would have taken a lifetime
We can jump on a bus or in a car and go 55 miles in just one
We have even built foot coverings (shoes) which not only protect
our feet, but enable us to jump higher and run faster.
Without help our voices will carry only a few yards. With
a phone we can talk to someone hundreds or thousands of miles
Our ears have a limited listening range. Yet with a phone
or radio we listen to information and entertainment from nearly
everywhere in the world.
With television we can see well beyond the limits of our eyes.
We can see realtime events and pictures from all over the
world. Eyeglasses and contact lenses help us to see when our
vision isn't 20/20.
with disabilities use technology for the same reasons, but
in different ways. For example:
A wheelchair, or other mobility device, is a form of transportation.
A TDD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf) orTT (Text Telephone)
is a way to communicate by phone. Braille is a system for
reading and writing.
are very powerful. They are like the paint an artist uses
to express their impressions of the world around them. We
use words in the same way. With words, we paint the limits
and possibilities of our reality.
the language we use is the most telling example of how we
perceive the value of people with disabilities in our society.
out how powerful words can be for defining the potentials
or limitations of persons with disabilities, try this exercise.
the following words out loud.
- handicapped - deaf and dumb - blind - victim - disabled
These are considered BAD words. They focus attention on the
disability, not the person. They encourage ideas of pity and
helplessness. They suggest that the person has no value or
dignity as a whole human being.
read these words out loud.
with a disability
- person with a vision disability
- person who is deaf
are considered GOOD words. They express the personhood of
the individual. They make us realize that having a disability
is just a part of a person's life.
your eyes and say the words again to yourself. Then compare
thetypes of images and feelings the different words create.
a. What type of impressions and feelings did the words "cripple,"
"deaf and dumb," or "victim" leave? Images
of helplessness, pity, or hopelessness?
type of impressions and feelings did the words "person
with a disability," "person with a vision disability,"
or "person who is deaf" leave? Images of a partial
or specific disability, more wholeness, or ability?
the following terms out loud.
- "palsy" ... person.
- "sightless" ... person.
- "deaf and dumb" ... person.
- "disabled" ... person.
2. Now read these words out loud.
- "A person with" ... cerebral palsy.
- "A person with" ... a vision disability.
- "A person with" ... a hearing disability.
- "A person with" ... a disability.
3. Close your eyes and say the words to yourself.
Now compare the types of images and feelings these words create.
type of impressions and feelings did the term "disabled
person" leave? Images of weakness, sadness, or total
b. What type of impressions and feelings did the term "person
with a disability" leave? Images of ownership, strength,
4. Now exchange the term "person" for a role; i.e.,
mother, father, boss, employee, playmate, friend, etc., and
do this second exercise over again. Listen to the whole message
the words convey.
are very powerful. They reinforce our ideas of who we are
and who and what we expect we can be. Avoid using words which
suggest helplessness or infirmity, such as: crippled, victim,
handicapped, disabled or invalid. (This last word actually
comes from the phrase "in-valid.")
having a disability is a part of the lives of people with
disabilities, generally speaking, it is not a good idea to
totally drop any reference to the disability. However, it
is healthy to try to put the disability into the context of
are always exceptions to every rule. Generally speaking, when
you are describing a person with a disability, we should use
words that emphasize the personhood, wholeness, and abilities
of the person. Such as:
with cerebral palsy"
- "person with a vision disability"
- "person with a hearing disability"
- "person with a disability"
when a term has gained intrinsic strength among a large group
of persons with a specific disability, the personhood rule
may be suspended in favor of political or cultural preferences.
term is considered culturally appropriate and is preferred
over the terms "persons who are deaf" or "persons
with hearing disabilities" by international organizations
of people who are deaf.
The Two Golden Rules of Etiquette.
two basic rules of etiquette should be used when interacting
with persons with disabilities, regardless of the disability.
1: Talk directly to the person
have a question to ask or a comment to make, be sure that
your communication is directed towards the person for whom
it is intended. Speak to a person with a disability as you
would to anyone else, concentrating on the purpose or reason
you are communicating. Direct your communication to the person
with a disability, even if they use a speech device or an
communicate to you.
mistake is to talk to anyone other than the person with a
disability. It is very rude, impolite, and inappropriate to
turn to someone else and ask, "What does s/he want?"
Talk directly to the person with the disability. DO NOT address
any questions regarding the interests or needs of the person
disability to anyone except the person with the disability.
2: When in doubt, ASK
not sure how a person communicates, or what they want, the
best thing to do is ask. If talking to a person with a disability
makes you uncomfortable, take your time, be polite, and let
the person know that this is a new situation for you.
Rule 1: Speak directly to the person with the disability
are some helpful pointers to keep in mind when you are trying
to decide whether or not to provide assistance.
It is okay to offer assistance
everyone, there are times when a person with a disability
wants assistance and there are times when they don't. Everyone
appreciates some assistance now and then. And most people,
including people with disabilities, like to assist
someone once in a while.
it is appropriate to offer assistance, it is not appropriate
to spontaneously provide assistance. Doing so assumes that
the person with a disability needs or wants it. Never assume
someone needs or wants your assistance.
Rule 2: When in doubt ASK
2. Ask before providing assistance
you don't want or need assistance, the last thing you want
is someone "helping" you. Before assisting a person
with a disability, ask them whether or not they would like
assistance. They may say "yes" or "no."
thing is to let the person with the disability make the decision.
3. Clarify what type of assistance is desired
has their own way of doing things.
Some ways work better than others. Before assisting a person
with a disability, ask them how you can best assist. Let them
tell you how they would like to be assisted.
basic ideas apply to interacting with persons with all kinds
of disabilities, whether they are people with mobility disabilities,
people with hearing disabilities, people with vision disabilities,
people with communication disabilities, people with mental
disabilities, substance abuse, or other health
conditions such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, cancer,
People with Mobility
Signs, signs, everywhere are signs
everywhere you go now-a-days you can see the international
symbol of accessibility (the white wheelchair figure on a
blue background). You see it in parking areas, restrooms,
and on the front of buildings. However, increased awareness
doesn't necessarily result in increased accessibility. These
signs can be very misleading.
a few genuinely accessible facilities do exist, a majority
of facilities and services identified with an "accessible"
symbol are not. The white and blue symbol of accessibility
doesn't assure that facilities actually are accessible.
"handicapped" parking spaces are inaccessible. While
they may be reserved for persons with disabilities, their
size or location can actually impair a
person's ability to get in and out of their car.
parking spaces are supposed to be 13 feet wide. The additional
width is necessary to get a car door open wide enough to get
in and out of the car or to use an electric lift for getting
in and out of a van.
was the last time you saw a "handicapped" parking
space that was a minimum of 13 feet wide?
are supposed to have a slope no greater than 1 inch of height
for every 12 inches of length. Not all ramps meet this requirement
and therefore are not accessible. When a ramp with a slope
steeper than the 1- to 12-inch
requirement is referred to as "accessible," it is
very misleading and can be potentially dangerous.
My Chair, My Body
or a walker may look like just another piece of equipment.
However, people who use a wheelchair, walker, or cane often
consider this technology as an extension of their body.
are NOT footstools, stepladders, or fire hazards. They are
part of a person's person and should be treated with the same
dignity and respect.
or handling someone's wheelchair or other mobility tool may
be seen as the same as touching or handling the person's body
and may be considered inappropriate without the permission
of the individual.
symbol of accessibility does not assure that a building or
activity is accessible.
or handling a person's wheelchair, walker, or other mobility
device can be the same as touching their body.
with paralysis can and do have children.
a mobility disability does NOT mean that you have other disabilities.
a wheelchair or other mobility device does NOT constitute
an inability to achieve a fulfilling life and a satisfying
Talk face to face
to face a person with a disability when talking to them. Carrying
on a conversation with someone from behind, especially if
you're standing over them, isn't very respectful of their
Look me in the eye when you say that
often people who use wheelchairs have to look up at the person
who is talking to them. This puts a strain on the person who
is forced to look up at the person talking. This may also
communicate an unequal status. Try to establish level eye
contact by getting a chair and sitting down.
feel compelled to communicate your empathic impressions of
what it must be like to use a wheelchair.
had a temporary disability, or having known a relative who
used a wheelchair, may give you an experience with using a
wheelchair or knowing someone who did; however, it does not
tell you about someone else's experience.
Each person's experience is different. There are people who
would say being in a wheelchair is the best thing that ever
happened to them. There are other people who wouldn't agree.
trying to bridge any social distance you might feel, talk
about something that you both have in common like work, recreation,
are very powerful. Think about these typical phrases:
"Confined to a wheelchair"
doesn't know of anyone who is absolutely, totally confined
to a wheelchair by ropes, chains or a court order.
author hears this term, he is reminded of an image where a
person is crawling towards their chair singing "Hi, ho,
hi, ho it's off to chair I go...."
author hears this term, he thinks of a wheelchair which has
eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth. This term will dehumanize
that promote the personhood and abilities of the individual
rather than a device they use or a physical limitation they
have. For example:
person with a mobility disability"
- or -
"A person with a disability"
People with Hearing
disability," "hard of hearing," and "deaf"
mean different things
people think that "hearing disability," "hard
of hearing," and "deaf" refer to the same thing.
They don't. The term "hearing disability" refers
to persons who are hard of hearing AND persons who are deaf.
who are deaf and persons who are hard of hearing feel it is
important to be recognized for their distinctive differences.
An agreement between the World
Federation of the Deaf and the International Federation of
the Hard of Hearing has defined the difference between "deaf"
and "hard of hearing."
is that "deaf people seek to utilize their vision skills
for communicating while hard of hearing persons seek ways
to retain their listening and speaking skills. Therefore,
their concerns, needs, and emphases are different."
of hearing disabilities, like other disabilities, is composed
of a variety of types and degrees. A person who is hard of
hearing may hear only specific pitches, high or low, or a
specific range of tones in between. (Think of the octaves
on a piano.) Hard of hearing may also refer to volume. Persons
who are hard of hearing may only hear loud sounds.
who have some hearing may choose to rely more on speech for
communicating. People who are deaf may choose to rely on Sign
Language for communication. It is important to understand
that a hearing loss may affect people differently.
All hard of hearing and deaf people do not read lips
the greatest fallacies regarding persons who are hard of hearing
or deaf is that they speech read lips very well. Research
indicates that less than thirty percent of spoken English
sounds are visible, and that fifty percent of English sounds
look like another sound on the lips.
Most deaf people have some vocal capacity
myth about deaf people is they can't vocalize. Most deaf people
have normal vocal organs and can vocalize. However, because
of cultural issues, a lack of auditory cues, role models,
or training, deaf people may choose not to vocalize.
used by deaf people
people use a variety of ways to communicate. They may choose
to speak, speech read, write, or use a variety of "signed
communication." Signed communication is a term referring
to the use of fingerspelling (manually spelling
letters with your fingers), American Sign Language, or a variety
of signed English systems. These have different grammatical
structures and may be mixed together.
Sign Language (ASL) is the definitive language of the
deaf culture and is used by many deaf people throughout the
United States and parts of Canada. Like all natural languages,
ASL has its own rules for grammar and conversational structures
to convey information and ideas.
of hearing does not mean deaf.
who are deaf or hard of hearing can NOT read lips.
deaf people have normal vocal organs and can vocalize.
deaf people DO have excellent speech.
spelling is NOT the same as Sign Language.
Many deaf or hard of hearing enjoy music, theater, and movies.
deaf or hard of hearing does NOT mean that you have other
deaf or hard of hearing does NOT constitute an inability to
achieve a fulfilling life and a satisfying lifestyle.
Communicating with a TDD or TT
stands for "Telecommunication Device for the Deaf"
and may also be referred to as a "TT" for
"Text Telephone." Either term is acceptable and
refers to a small compact device that looks like a small typewriter
an LED screen. You type messages using the keyboard and read
messages from the screen.
When typing your message on the TDD, make your communication
clear, simple, and concise. When reading messages, be aware
that abbreviations and ASL grammar may make the translation
take a little longer. Try to focus on the whole message being
conveyed, rather than trying to figure out individual words
to know the abbreviations GA, Q and SK when
communicating via a TDD. Type "GA" (go ahead) when
you want the other person to start typing. When you read "GA,"
it is your turn to type. When you ask a question, type "Q"
instead of a question mark. Type "SK" when you want
to conclude your
conversation. When you read "SK," type "SKSK"
if you are completely finished talking. When both you and
the person you are talking to have typed "SK," your
conversation has ended and you can hang-up your phone and
turn off your TDD.
work or live in a place that has telephones and TDDs and you
answer a ringing phone and hear a beeping sound or silence,
DON'T hang-up, it may be a TDD call.
know how to use a TDD, answer the call. If you don't know
how to use a TDD, find someone who can answer the call, or
use a telephone relay system. Just DON'T hang-up.
type your message while the other person is typing their message.
Only one person at a time can type and send their message
via a TDD over the phone.
Using an interpreter
always address your comments, questions, and concerns directly
to the deaf person to whom you are talking. Even if you are
using an interpreter, speak directly to the person with the
hearing disability. Treat the interpreter as a foreign language
translator; that's their role, nothing more.
talk to the interpreter or solicit information about the deaf
person from the interpreter. Look at and communicate directly
to the deaf person. The interpreter's job is to translate
language, not interpret, mediate, or negotiate.
do NOT speak to the interpreter and say, "Ask him where
he would like to sit." Instead, speak directly to the
person you are talking to and say, "Mr. Johnson, where
would you like to sit?"
use a qualified interpreter. Never use someone who knows "a
little" sign language. Using someone who knows a little
sign language is like using a foreign language interpreter
who knows just a little English.
use the word "dumb" to denote a person who is hard
of hearing or deaf. Use words which appropriately describe
the person's abilities, such as, "a person who is hard
that "the deaf" or "deaf person" is an
exception to this rule. The terms "the deaf" or
"deaf person" are preferred by national organizations
of persons who are deaf.
People with Vision
doesn't mean blind
the most common myths about persons with vision disabilities
is that they live in a world of total darkness. The range
of vision disabilities, like other
disabilities, is varied. For example, some people have peripheral
vision while others have central vision. Some people have
clouded vision while others may have multiple vision. Some
people have a combination of many types of vision.
of darkness is not relevant to most persons with vision disabilities.
Someone who has no vision at all may not "see" any
SUPERSENSES is super-senseless
a vision disability does not give someone super-hearing, super-smell,
super-taste, or super-touch. Persons with vision disabilities
may learn to pay more attention to their other senses. However,
paying closer attention to other
senses is learned. The other senses do not "become"
of a person with a vision disability are not naturally heightened
as a result of their vision disability.
Persons with vision disabilities have strengths and weaknesses
like everyone else
who are blind or have a vision disability may have a very
good sense of their location and direction as they are traveling.
Having a vision disability
doesn't automatically mean that someone needs assistance.
Some people who are blind are very good navigators in familiar
surroundings where they live, work, and play. Other people
who are blind may not have developed these skills. Like everyone
else, persons with disabilities will vary in their interests,
skills, and abilities.
a vision disability does NOT mean a person lives in total
a vision disability does not GIVE someone super-hearing, super-smell,
super-taste, or super-touch.
a vision disability does NOT mean you do not know where you
are or where you want to go. Having a vision disability, or
being blind, does NOT mean that you have other disabilities.
a vision disability does NOT constitute an inability to achieve
a fulfilling life and a satisfying lifestyle.
Memory games are rude
identify yourself verbally when addressing a person with a
vision disability. Most people with vision disabilities find
it very rude and impolite to have someone come up to them
and say, "Do you remember my voice?"
reason persons with vision disabilities are often shouted
at. (Interestingly, this behavior contradicts the myth of
super-hearing.) Use your normal tone of voice; don't shout.
okay to use vision references such as "see" or "look."
considered polite to indicate your position with a light tap
on the shoulder or hand (as in the case of a handshake or
when offering mobility assistance). However, keep your physical
very important to identify yourself when you approach a person
with a vision disability and to tell them when you are leaving
the conversation or area.
assistance, the best practice is to offer your elbow and allow
the person with the vision disability to direct you when assisting
him/her with their
mobility. Don't push, don't propel, or grab the person or
any part of their body and attempt to lead them; groping is
dog, like all service animals, should never be petted or talked
to without the permission of its owner. Guide dogs, when in
harness, are working and should not be distracted.
cliches' where "blind" is used to mean "stupid,"
blind leading the blind.
- What are you ... blind?
- I'm not "blind" you know.
which convey the abilities and wholeness of the person.
with a vision disability.
- Person who is blind.
with Communication Disabilities
disabilities range from problems with articulation, or voice
strength, to complete voicelessness. They include difficulties
in projection, as in chronic hoarseness and esophageal speech;
fluency problems, as in stuttering and
stammering; and the nominal aphasia that alters the articulation
of particular words or terms.
I can speak for myself
a communication disability does not mean that a person does
not desire to speak for himself. Most persons with communication
disabilities do wish to speak for themselves. However, more
often than not, other people feel compelled to try to speak
for them. In most cases, "normal" people do not
give the person with the communication disability the time
they need to speak for themselves.
Not having clear speech does not mean I'm stupid
person has difficulty communicating verbally it does not mean
that he is not capable of thinking for himself. Having difficulty
speaking does not mean a person is unintelligent.
3. Avoidance is the number one response
one issue that people with communication disabilities have
regarding communicating with other people is patience. Generally
speaking, most people aren't willing to give people with communication
disabilities the time they need to send their message. It
seems that most people exercise avoidance or impatience when
interacting with a person with a communication disability.
to another person on the telephone can be a nightmare for
a person with a communication disability. Persons with communication
disabilities reported that when they make a phone call the
people who answer the phone usually take action which immediately
ends the conversation.
most people would:
say, "I can't understand you." and/or
b. Put them on hold, and/or
c. Promptly refer the call to their supervisor
Listening pays off
cases, persons with communication disabilities can be understood
if the listener takes the time to listen to what they have
interviews with persons with severe communication disabilities
for this handbook, the author was surprised by the ease with
which he was able to understand what people were saying after
two to four minutes of attentive
slow speech, or any speech difference, does not mean you can't
or don't want to talk for yourself.
speech does not equal a slow mind.
Having a communication disability does not mean a person is
a communication disability does NOT mean that you have other
slow or difficult speech does NOT constitute an inability
to achieve a fulfilling life and a satisfying lifestyle.
Take time, relax, and listen
give the person the time they desire to be able to speak for
themselves. Focus your attention on what is being communicated.
Don't be afraid that you can't deal with the person who has
a communication disability. With a little time and patience,
you can comfortably converse with a person with a communication
to rush the conversation or second guess what a person has
to say may only increase their stress and reduce effective
communication. Speed is not the goal. If you push for quick
answers, it can make it more difficult for the person with
the communication disability to answer.
It's okay to say, "I don't understand"
okay to say, "I don't understand," if you have given
someone the time and patience they require to send their message.
Solicit and provide feedback
repeat your understanding of the message in order to clarify
and/or confirm what was said. Or, ask to have information
repeated. Sometimes spelling words can be helpful.
are experiencing some difficulty communicating, explain what
you would like to do to facilitate the communication. Be sure
to solicit feedback on your proposed solution before taking
Reduce or eliminate background noise
or eliminating background noise, it may be easier to focus
on the conversation.
Treat persons with communication disabilities with dignity
and respect; listen to their words
engage in avoidance responses like:
putting them on hold.
b. Immediately getting someone else to talk with them.
c. Immediately saying "I don't understand."
d. Asking to talk to someone else about what the person with
the communication disability may need or want.
Encourage the use of a telephone relay system if they do not
use a TDD or TT
use language which focuses attention on the disability, such
- Unintelligible speech
which more appropriately put the disability into perspective:
with a communication disability
- Person with slow speech
- Person who uses artificial speech
with Learning Disabilities
Just the Facts
be a "hidden" disability.
with learning disabilities often have average to superior
intelligence. They are NOT slow, lazy, or unmotivated.
disabilities are a group of conditions (probably neurological
in origin) that cause significant difficulties in perception.
The particular disability might be
in the area of auditory, visual, or spatial perception.
disabilities may affect writing (dysgraphia), reading (dyslexia),
mathematics (dyscalculia), listening comprehension, and/or
disabilities cause significant discrepancy between intellectual
capacity and individual achievement.
type of accommodation and learning strategies vary with the
exact nature of the individual's disability. Additionally,
when the person with a learning
disability has an oral language deficit, it is difficult for
them to express their needs.
with learning disabilities are NOT unintelligent.
NOT assume a person with a learning disability is a slow learner
about the individual's strengths and weaknesses.
for the individual's assistance in planning accommodations.
People with Psychiatric
Just the Facts
are many different types of psychiatric illnesses, and each
individual diagnosis is determined by a variety of factors.
wide range of behaviours associated with mental illness may
vary from indifference to disruptiveness. When the illness
is active, the individual may or may not be at risk of harming
himself or others.
wide range of behaviours include, but are not limited to:
depression, feelings of hopelessness, sadness, apathy, inattention,
poor concentration, fatigue, sleep or eating disturbances,
anxiety, withdrawal, constant talking, joking, fantasizing,
or extreme fear or panic.
psychiatric disabilities are controlled by medication and
have little effect on learning. However, many medications
have side effects which may cause drowsiness or disorientation,
and may also affect learning.
who have a psychiatricl illness DO NOT have a cognitive disability.
with a psychiatric disability are NOT "crazy."
People with Epilepsy
Just the Facts
known as a "seizure disorder," characterized by
a sudden overload of electrical energy in the brain.
may range from "absence" (formerly called petit
mal) to "generalized" (formerly called grand mal).
(approximately 65%) seizure disorders are controlled with
medication, and most have infrequent seizures while on medication.
cannot swallow his/her tongue during a seizure.
who have epilepsy are not violent against themselves or others
during a seizure. But, certain safety precautions should be
taken so that no one is hurt
a person is having a seizure you should NOT place anything
in his/her mouth.
does NOT prevent people from participating in sports, work,
or social activities.
about seizures will reduce fear and myths.
with the person with a seizure disorder their particular needs.
during a seizure by protecting the individual from environmental
safety hazards (move sharp objects, place pillow under head).
with Other Disabilities
yet common -- about 3 million Americans have head injuries
each year, but most injuries are minor.
head trauma can manifest itself in headaches, dizziness, uncharacteristic
behaviors, personality changes, and cognitive difficulties.
effects may include difficulties in seeing and thinking; limited
ability to plan or organize activities; inability to control
more than 100 diseases that involved inflammation of the joints,
such as gout, lupus, and scleroderma (thickening of skin).
physically disabling condition in the U.S.
condition with no known cure; affects all ages.
controlled with medication, rest, and
of the nervous system.
can come and go; may be mild or severe; may include partial
or complete paralysis of arms or legs, numbness, slurred speech,
loss of coordination; progressive but at individually varied
strikes adults from ages 20 to 40.
is a chronic, progressive, and potentially fatal disease (not
a character flaw or lack of will power as it was once regarded).
mental health professionals also regard substance abuse as
an addictive disease.
abuse is a condition of physiological and/or psychological
dependence on any of a variety of chemicals.
heart attacks and strokes.
disorder that can be managed with proper treatment and regular
diabetics require insulin injections; "maturity-onset"
diabetes is treated mainly through diet and body weight control.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
failure of the immune system; usually fatal.
only when the virus passes directly from the body of a person
with AIDS to one without it via bodily fluids or blood.
who test positive for HIV may develop AIDS, but do not automatically
with AIDS may be afraid to reveal their condition because
of the social stigma, fear and/or misunderstanding surrounding
this illness. It is therefore
exceptionally important that the strictness of confidentiality
more than 100 diseases, none of which is contagious.
fatal--almost half of all people with cancer live for five
or more years after being diagnosed.
Other Mobility & Hand-Function Impairments
range of conditions may limit mobility and/or hand function.
the most common permanent disorders are such musculoskeletal
disabilities as partial or total paralysis, amputation or
severe injury, arthritis, active sickle cell disease, muscular
dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and cerebral
and cardiac diseases, which are debilitating, may consequently
these conditions may also impair the strength, speed, endurance,
coordination and dexterity that are necessary for proper hand
document was reprinted with permission from the University