Isn’t it surprising that a number of people are not comfortable around people with a disability, even when 1 out of every 5 individuals has some kind of physical condition that limits them in some way?
People with a physical condition require time to accept themselves, and then some more time is needed for people to get accustomed to their disability. A person on a wheelchair can cause serious anxiety and stress to some individuals. It is normal to feel that way if you have never talked to people suffering from a disability before. But here are the tips that will help you in interacting with people with a disability without hesitation or awkwardness.
1. Ask before You Help
Do not assume that the person with a disability is dependent on others and needs your help. It is hard for some people not to offer their assistance, but when it comes to dealing with people with a disability, you should assist them only when you are asked to. This is because no one likes their bags being carried by a complete stranger without asking them first, or someone invading their personal space.
2. Stop with the Stereotyping
Our society has taught numerous things that are engraved in our unconscious mind that we do not even know of. These things include various labels and terms that we have attached to certain people. It is simply a stereotype, a means to disgrace people. Thus, be very careful about the words you use while conversing with people with a physical disability.
People tend to causally use words like handicapped, retard, moron, and crippled in front of them, which is quite hurtful and disrespectful in general. It is also essential to use the name of the person instead of their disability to address them. If you are talking about them or introducing them, you do not have to points towards their disability.
Most importantly, stop apologizing for things that you can do and they cannot. For example, saying ‘see you soon’ or ‘I have to run’ in front of a visually impaired person or someone who is on a wheelchair, may leave you feeling awkward but for their sake, the best thing you can do is to keep your tone and behavior normal as if nothing has gone wrong. Although a disabled person may not find these terms hurtful, a constant reminder of their shortcomings due to your apologies, may draw unnecessary attention to them and make them sad.
3. Introduce Yourself and Talk to the Person Directly
If a person has a visual impairment, do not just stand there and remain quiet. Let them know of your presence and introduce yourself. Also, talk to the disabled person directly, rather than referring to them as a third person, especially when they are within hearing range. Moreover, look at them as a person, as an individual, as a whole, rather than avoiding their eyes or focusing solely on their disabled limbs. Give them the respect and attention they deserve and try to communicate with them in their language, such as in sign language with those who have a hearing disability.
By following these tips, you will be able to easily communicate with disabled people without feeling uncomfortable or making them uncomfortable.