You have probably asked yourself on more than one occasion what your treatment towards a person with a disability should be like. You may have a colleague at work, a neighbour, acquaintance or friend who moves in a wheelchair.
You may simply feel a certain curiosity or fear when you address a disabled person you meet on the street, and ask yourself: will I be offending him? will I have to help him? On more than one occasion, you may have wanted to help a blind person, for example, to cross the street, and you have not dared to propose it or you have not known how to do it. Here you will find the answers to all these questions.
Since not all disabilities are the same, and the people who suffer from them do not have to face the same problems and difficulties, we will deal with each case separately. However, there are some recommendations that can be used to guide how to deal with any of them.
General tips for establishing a first contact or conversation with a person with a disability
- Don’t be afraid. The first thing is to lose the fear and not stop communicating with a person, probably great but different, who can bring much and can enrich your life, your thinking, your attitude and your mentality. Think that you are talking to a normal person who has different characteristics from yours and specific difficulties that you have to face with or without help.
- Naturalness and sensitivity. Speak naturally, without paternalism. This is a person with dignity like you. If you notice that he needs help, don’t hesitate to ask him if he needs it and how to do it.
- Take care of the language but without fear. As we said, all you need is a little sensitivity and not to forget dignity. Avoid expressions that “objectify” the disabled and phrases of false compassion. In particular, it is not appropriate to say “I’ll take you”, “I’ll bring you”, “poor thing”, etc. Instead, it is better: “Do I help you to go to…? Do you need help for…? etc.
- Talk to him directly. Do not go to the person who accompanies him without his presence or his protagonism.
- The disabled person has a value and a dignity. Do not underestimate them.
- Respect the rhythms. Don’t mark them yourself.
- Each individual is different. Don’t think that all disabled people are the same. Don’t forget that they are normal people. Everyone has their own personality, way of speaking, education, training and culture, but they all have the same personal dignity as non-disabled people.
- Don’t be offended if he rejects your help. People with disabilities like to do things for themselves within their means. If you accept it, do only as much as I tell you or as much as you understand that I need it.
- Try to be kind so that both of you are comfortable during the talk, the company, the help or the exchange. The best is to enjoy; the best is to enjoy both of you.
How to address a blind or visually impaired person?
Try to heed the following advice:
- If you are going to start a conversation, take the initiative. Keep in mind that the visually impaired person cannot see you or only sees a shadow.
- Do not shout or frighten them. It is not a deaf person – unless it is associated with a hearing impairment.
- Identify yourself properly so that you know who you are talking to.
- Don’t leave without warning.
- Don’t worry if, throughout the conversation, you miss expressions like “I’ll see you tomorrow. It’s okay. These are normal, ordinary expressions that are used when speaking normally and without tension.
- Don’t substitute verbal for gestural language.
If you’re gonna help him:
- lend him your arm so he can hold on and walk normally.
- Warn of dangers.
- When you have to stop, put your arm back a little.
- When there is a flight of stairs, warn when the first and last steps are approaching.
- Report obstacles, difficulties, turns, changes of direction, etc. a little in advance.
- While walking, avoid words such as “there”, “here” or “there”; replace them with “to the right”, “to the left”, “up” or “down”.
What should communication with a deaf or hard of hearing person be like?
- Always talk to them face to face when they are looking at you. Do it at his height where he can see you well.
- Don’t talk too fast. Vocalise well. Use the gestures you need to support verbal language.
- If you notice that he has not understood you, repeat the phrase but with other words.
- Try to use simple, well pronounced and correct words. Do not use single words; it is better to construct simple sentences.
- If you don’t understand, don’t pretend. Tell him to repeat it.
- If the deaf or hard of hearing person knows sign language and there is someone who knows it, you can communicate with them that way.
How should dealing with a person with reduced mobility be?
- If the person is in a wheelchair, try to talk to him or her at the same height.
- When walking with someone who has to use crutches to walk, adjust your step to theirs without getting ahead.
- To help with a technical device, ask how.
- Don’t forget that this is a person with physical difficulties. He is not useless and is not incapacitated. Avoid addressing him as if he were a small child.
Persons with intellectual disabilities
These people are at risk of isolation, rejection and discrimination. It is best to engage in conversation by being attentive to the answers in order to adapt to their level of understanding, expression, abilities, etc.
- Use simple language and show them how to do it with your own performance if necessary.
- Give them specific, direct and simple commands.
- Give your help only as far as they need it.
As you can see, communicating with people who have some kind of physical, psychic or sensory deficit is not so difficult; all you have to do is put in an adequate dose of common sense, naturalness and good will.
Do not miss their experiences, experiences and desire to overcome. Courage, it only remains to put these simple tips into practice to enjoy a good conversation between great friends, whether they have these disabilities or not.