Disability etiquette — this is a vital, oft misunderstood, and somewhat touchy subject. As an individual with a disability, how frequently has a stranger’s ignorance of your disability miffed you? Perhaps someone did or said just the wrong thing, more than likely on accident, but offensive nonetheless. How much better would the world be if individuals without a disability understood various disabilities and how to communicate with those who have them?
Throughout the next several postings we will attempt to enlighten all those who are willing to learn more about “disability etiquette.” As always, we are relying on your input and comments to communicate our message. After all, as a disabled individual, you may be able to give the most helpful disability etiquette tips.
What exactly is “disability etiquette”? It is basically extending certain courtesies to individuals with a disability in such ways that allow them to feel comfortable, included in society, and respected. Individuals with a disability certainly deserve the same basic rights as individuals without a disability, and that includes respect, honor, and proper communication.
What are some specific examples of disability etiquette? One example is to avoid leaning on an individual’s wheelchair. While researching this subject, we were surprised to discover that there are those who actually do this! Someone’s wheelchair is an “extension of his or her personal space,” and all individuals are entitled to maintain their own personal space.
Another example of disability etiquette is to ask an individual with a disability if he or she needs help before automatically attempting to help him or her. It is presumptuous and can be demeaning to assume someone needs your help without first asking. For example, if you see an individual struggling to maneuver his or her wheelchair, don’t just grab the wheelchair to “help.” Ask the person if he or she would like your help.
Many examples of disability etiquette seem like common sense, but they are blunders that people make often.
Is there anything in particular that others tend to do that really “sets you off” or makes you feel uncomfortable? Is there something (or many things) you wish others knew to do or not to do in regards to disability etiquette? What are your personal disability etiquette tips? This is a great place to share your opinions and wisdom — others may really benefit from your honesty.