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Give disabled people more choice and control

in their
day-to-day life.
Get rid of the barriers that stop disabled people
doing the
best they can.

How to Help Those Who Have a Disability

Having a disability is as hard as any other
challenge an able bodied or disabled person
may face, it is just a challenge that not that
many people face. Having a disability does not
necessarily make you worse off, it just means
you have to do things differently. Lastly, having
a disability is part of a social and cultural
identity. Here are some tips for what to do if
you think a person with a disability wants help.



Treat them like you would anyone else

people with disabilities are just people, and
do not deserve or need to be coddled or
treated differently.
Do not treat their disability as something to

be ashamed of. This is dehumanizing, and

intentional or unintentional, it is "ableism"
(discrimination against people with



Be there for them like any other friend.

Stand up for their rights. If someone is rude
or mean because of the disability, stand up
for them like you would anyone else.
Treat them the way you would treat any
other human being. Laugh, cry or be
friends with them like the way you would
any other friend.
Treat them with the respect we all deserve.
Ask if they need help before helping. We all
have the right to be independent.

The majority of people with disabilities are

positive and happy people. The stereotype of
people with disabilities being depressed is way
over-blown when in reality, a person who is
going through intense depression over their
disability is usually in a stage of mourning over
a recently acquired disability. Give them time,
be supportive, but don't encourage the

depression, and encourage them to move on at

their own pace. People with disabilities are not
constantly unhappy.

Don't have pity on them. Disability has

changed over the years, and it is no longer
about living a less full life.

How to Interact With People Who Have

It's not uncommon to feel a bit uncertain
talking to or interacting with someone who has
a physical, sensory, or intellectual disability.
Socializing with people with disabilities should
be no different from any other socialization.
However, if you're not familiar with a given
disability, you might fear either saying
something offensive or doing the wrong thing
by offering assistance.
Part 1 of 2: Speaking to Someone with a
1. Be respectful, above all else. Someone who
has a disability should be afforded the same
amount of respect as anyone else. View others

as people, not impairments. Focus on the

person at hand and her individual personality. If
you must put a "label" on the disability, it's
best to ask what terminology she prefers and
stick with the terms she chooses.[1] In general,
you should follow the golden rule: treat
others as you would like to be treated.[2]
Many, but not all, people with disabilities prefer
"people first" language,[3] which puts the
name or person before the disability. For
example, you would say his sister, who has
Down syndrome rather than his Down's
More examples of appropriate people first
language include, "Robert has cerebral palsy,"
"Leslie is partially sighted," or "Sarah uses a
wheelchair," rather than saying someone "is
mentally/physically challenged/handicapped"
(both of which are often seen as patronizing
terms) or referring to "the blind girl" or "the girl
in the wheelchair."
It's worth noting that labeling norms vary a
great deal between people and groups. In
particular, many autistic individuals have
rejected people-first language and prefer

"identify-first" language.[4] As another

example, it's common within the deaf world to
see the terms deaf or hard of hearing used to
describe their audiological condition, but the
term Deaf (with an uppercase D) to refer to
their culture or someone who is part of it.[5] If
in doubt, just politely ask the individual you're
talking to what they prefer.
2. Never talk down to someone with a
disability. Regardless of being their abilities, no
one wants to be treated like a child or
patronized. When youre speaking to someone
with a disability, dont use child-like
vocabulary, pet names, or a louder-thanaverage talking voice. Do not use patronizing
gestures such as patting her on the back or
head.[6] These habits communicate that you
dont think the person with a disability is
capable of understanding you and that you
equate her to a child. Use a regular speaking
voice and vocabulary, and talk to her just like
you would talk to someone without a disability.
It is appropriate to slow down your speech for
someone who is hard of hearing or has a
cognitive disability.[7] You may also ask
whether you are speaking too quickly, or ask

her to tell you if you need to slow down or

speak more clearly if necessary.
Dont feel like you have to reduce your
vocabulary to the most basic words.
3. Dont use labels or offensive terms. Labels
and derogatory names are not appropriate and
should be avoided in conversation with
someone who has a disability. Identifying
someone by her disability or assigning a label
that is offensive (such as crippled or
handicapped) is both hurtful and disrespectful.
Always be careful of the things you say,
censoring your language if necessary. Avoid
names like moron, retard, cripple, midget, etc,
at all times.[8] Be careful not to identify
someone by her disability instead of her name
or role.
If you introduce someone with a disability, you
dont need to introduce the disability as well.
You can say this is my co-worker, Susan
without saying this is my co-worker, Susan,
who is deaf.
If you use a common phrase like I gotta run!
to someone in a wheelchair, dont apologize.
These types of phrases are not intended to be

hurtful, and by apologizing youll simply be

drawing attention to your awareness of her
4. Speak directly to the person, not an aid or
translator. Its frustrating for someone with a
disability to have to deal with people never
talking directly to her if she has an assistant or
a translator present.[10] If youre speaking
with someone who has a nurse to help or
someone who is deaf and has a sign language
interpreter, you should still always speak
directly to the person who is disabled.
5. Put yourself on the same level as the other
person. If youre speaking to someone whose
disability causes her to be at a different height
than you, as with a wheelchair, do your best to
get on her level.[11][12] This will enable you to
speak face to face, rather than downwards at
her, and can help make her more comfortable.
Be particularly aware of this for long
conversations, which can cause someone to
experience neck strain from looking up at you.
6. Be patient and ask questions, if necessary. It
can be tempting to speed along a conversation
or to finish the sentences of someone with a

disability, but doing so can be disrespectful.

[13] Always let her speak and work at her own
pace, without you egging her to talk or move
faster. Additionally, if you dont understand
something someone says because theyre
speaking too slowly or too quickly, dont be
afraid to ask questions. Assuming you know
what someone said can be detrimental and
embarrassing if you mishear her, so always
Someone with a speech impediment might be
particularly difficult to understand, so dont
rush her to talk faster and ask her to repeat
herself if necessary.
7. Don't be afraid of asking about a persons
disability. It may not be appropriate to ask
about someones disability out of curiosity, but
if you feel this might help you make a situation
easier for her (like asking a person if she would
prefer to take the elevator with you instead of
the stairs if you see she has trouble walking), it
is appropriate to ask questions.[15] Chances
are, she has been asked about her disability
repeatedly over her life and knows how to
explain it in a few sentences. If the disability
resulted from an accident or the person finds

the information too personal, she will most

likely answer that she prefers not to discuss it.
Assuming you know what her disability is can
be offensive; it is better to ask than to presume
8. Recognize that some disabilities are not
visible. If you see someone who appears ablebodied parking in a handicapped spot, don't
confront her and accuse her of lacking a
disability; she may have a disability you cannot
see. Sometimes called "invisible disabilities,"
disabilities that cannot be immediately seen
are still disabilities.[17]
A good habit to be in is to act kindly and
considerately towards everyone; you can't
know someone's situation by just looking at
Part 2 of 2: Interacting Appropriately
1. Put yourself in the position of someone with
a disability. It may be easier to understand how
to interact with people who have disabilities if
you imagine having a disability yourself. Think
about how you would want people to talk to or
treat you. Its likely that you wanted to be

treated just as you are now.

Therefore, you should talk to people with
disabilities as you would anyone else. Welcome
a new coworker with a disability as you would
anyone else new to your workplace. Never
stare at someone with a disability or act
condescending or patronizing.
Don't focus on the disability. It is not important
that you figure out the nature of someones
disability. It is only important that you treat her
equally, talk to her as you would to anyone
else, and act as you would normally act if a
new person entered into your life.
2. Offer genuine help. Some people are
hesitant to offer to help someone with a
disability for fear of offending her. Indeed, if
you are offering help because of an assumption
that someone cannot do something herself,
your offer could be offensive. However, very
few people would be offended by a genuine,
specific offer of assistance.
Many people with disabilities are hesitant to
ask for help, but may be grateful for an offer.
For example, if you go shopping with a friend

who is wheelchair-bound, you could ask if she

needs assistance carrying her bags or
attaching them to her wheelchair. Offering to
help a friend is not usually offensive.
If you are not sure of a specific way to help,
you can ask, Is there anything that I can do to
help you right now?
Never help someone without asking first; for
example, do not grab someones wheelchair
and try to push her up a steep ramp. Instead,
ask if she needs a push or if you can do
anything else to make it easier for her to
navigate the terrain.[18]
3. Dont play with service dogs. Service dogs
are obviously cute and well trained, making
them perfect candidates for cuddling and play
time. However, they are used for helping the
person with the disability, and are necessary
for performing common tasks. If you take time
to play with the dog without asking permission,
you may be distracting the dog from an
important task it needs to perform for its
owner.[19] If you see a service dog in action,
you should not distract it by petting it. If the
dog is not doing any tasks, you can ask the

owner permission to pet it or play with it.[20]

Keep in mind though that you may be turned
down, in which case you should not be upset or
Dont give a service dog food or treats of any
Dont try to distract a service dog by calling it
pet names, even if you dont actually pet or
touch it.
4. Avoid playing with someones wheelchair or
walking device. A wheelchair might seem like a
good place to rest your arm, but doing so can
be uncomfortable or annoying to the person
sitting in it.[21] Unless youre asked to help
someone by pushing or moving her wheelchair,
you should never touch or play with it. The
same advice goes for walkers, scooters,
crutches, or any other device someone might
be using for everyday functioning. If you ever
feel the need to play with or move someones
wheelchair, you should ask permission first,
and wait for her response.
Any tool or device a person might use to help
with her disability, such as a hand-held
translator or an oxygen tank, should never be

touched unless you are directed to do so.

5. Acknowledge that most people with
disabilities have adapted. Some disabilities are
present from birth, and others come later in life
due to development, accident, or illness.
However the disability developed, most people
learn how to adapt and take care of themselves
independently. Most are independent in
everyday living, requiring little help from
others.[22] As a result, it can be offensive or
annoying to assume that someone with a
disability cannot do many things, or to
constantly try to do things for her. Work under
the assumption that the person can accomplish
whatever task is at hand by herself.
A person who gets a disability as a result of an
accident later in life may require more help
than someone with a life-long disability, but
you should always wait until they ask for your
help before assuming they need it.
Dont avoid asking someone with a disability to
do a certain task because you worry they cant
accomplish it.
If you do offer help, make the offer genuine
and specific. If you are offering from a place of

genuine kindness, and not an assumption that

the person cannot do something, youre less
likely to offend.
6. Avoid getting in the way. Try to be courteous
around people with physical disabilities by
staying out of the way. Move to the side if you
see someone attempting to navigate in a
wheelchair. Move your feet out of the path of
someone who is using a cane or a walker. If you
notice that someone does not seem to be
strong and steady on her feet, offer help
verbally. Don't invade someones personal
space, just as you would not invade anyone
else's. However, if someone asks you for
assistance, be prepared to give it.
Do not touch anyones equipment or pet
without asking. Remember that a wheelchair or
other aid is personal space; it's part of the
person. Please respect that.
------------Some people may refuse help, and that's okay.
Some people might not need help, and others
might be embarrassed you took notice of their
need of assistance, or not want to appear
weak. They might have had bad experiences

with other people who helped them in the past.

Do not take it personally; just wish them well.
Avoid assumptions. It's ignorant to make any
kinds of predictions based on someone's
perceived abilities or disabilities, e.g. assuming
people with disabilities/conditions will never
achieve anything/find a job/have a
relationship/get married/have children etc.
Sadly some people with disabilities and
conditions can be open for and be easy prey to
bullying, abuse, hate crime, unfair treatment
and discrimination. Bullying, abuse and
discrimination of any kind is wrong, unfair, and
are illegal. You and others have the right to be
safe, be treated with respect, kindness,
honesty, fairly and with dignity at all times. No
one deserves bullying, abuse, hate crime,
unfair treatment of any kind ever. It is the
bullies, abusers who have the problem and are
in the wrong, not you.
Some people will customize their assistive
devices - canes, walkers, wheelchairs etc. In
some cases, it's about appearance.
Complimenting someone on an attractively
designed cane is perfectly fine. After all, they

chose the cane in part because they thought it

looked nice. In others, it's about function.
Someone who has attached a cup holder and a
flashlight to their walker probably won't mind
you commenting on it or asking to take a closer
look; it's certainly more polite than staring from
a distance.
Only offer help if you are physically able to
perform the task. If you know you cannot lift a
baby-carriage or walker onto a bus or provide a
secure hold for a person stepping off the train
or bus, tell the driver or the other people on
the bus that help is needed, or offer the person
in need of help the use of a cellphone to call
someone. Don't ignore the situation because
you feel incapable of helping yourself.