Worried about being “politically correct” in your communication? Worried you may say or do something to offend someone?
Worry no more. Here are some helpful guidelines:
Words are Important
Positive language empowers.
When writing or speaking about people with disabilities, it is important to put the person first. Emphasize abilities, not limitations.
Here are examples of positive and negative phrases:
|Person who is blind||The blind|
|Person with a disability||The disabled, handicapped|
|Person who is hearing impaired||Suffers a hearing loss|
|Person who has multiple sclerosis||Afflicted by MS|
|Person with cerebral palsy||CP victim|
|Person who has muscular dystrophy||Stricken by MD|
|Person with a developmental disability||Retarded, mentally defective|
|Person with epilepsy||Epileptic|
|Person with mental illness||Crazy, mental case|
|Person who uses a wheelchair||Confined or restricted to a wheelchair|
|Person without disabilities||Normal person (implies that person with a disability isn’t normal)|
|Physically disabled||Crippled, lame, deformed|
|Unable to speak; uses synthetic speech||Dumb, mute|
Communicating with People who have Disabilities
Learn to communicate with people who have disabilities.
People with disabilities expect equal treatment, not special treatment.
Always remember that a person with a disability is a person with feelings. Treat him/her as you would want to be treated.
You can’t always see a person’s disability. If a person acts unusual or seems different, just be yourself. Use common sense.
Avoid asking personal questions about someone’s disability.
Do not raise your voice unless requested.
It is appropriate to extend your hand when introduced to a person with a disability, even if they have an artificial limb. It is acceptable to shake left hands if needed. If they cannot shake hands, a touch on the shoulder or arm is ok.
Be willing to open the door if needed.
Never lean on a person’s wheelchair; this is their personal space.
Look and speak directly to the person with a disability, not to their companion or interpreter.
Ask a person with a visual impairment if he/she would like to take your arm rather than grabbing their arm. Walk slightly ahead, and point out doors, stairs, etc as you approach them. Be specific when describing the location.
Don’t pet or distract a guide dog; they are always working.
Be willing to repeat or rephrase a question if they don’t understand. Ask open-ended questions. Be patient and give your undivided attention.
It’s ok to use expressions like “see you soon” or “I’d better be running along”, etc.