In the 21st century, we live in a world that is more diverse and more accepting than ever. While some would disagree with the latter part, the truth is that people’s general mindset has changed over time, although it might still have a long way to go. But thanks to the internet, we are constantly exposed to various cultures, and we have the chance to communicate with people from all walks of life, and young people who were born into these circumstances are proven to be more tolerant and accepting than their older counterparts.
However, respect and tolerance, as well as the knowledge of how to treat people who are in different situations than us, is still not innate knowledge but something all of us have to learn. In this article, we will discuss the most important points about how you should treat people with disabilities.
Treat everyone as you would like to be treated
This is basically the golden rule when it comes to treating all people, not just those with disabilities. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what reaction your actions would create. Although every person is different, you have less of a chance of making a mistake if you follow this rule.
Respecting everyone equally
The fact is that not all of us come from a background where we have been exposed to daily interaction with people with disabilities (or any other diversity, for that matter), and this could make you feel insecure about how you should behave, regardless of whether we are talking about personal relationships or professional ones. However, it all boils down to respect.
And respecting them also includes respecting their needs and wishes. Before you go and help them, always make sure you inquire whether they want you to. It is up to their personal preference whether they want to do things themselves or they would appreciate some help, but lending a hand without asking first can lead to unpleasant scenarios, where you either do more harm than good or simply, you cause the person to feel unpleasant. For instance, pushing someone’s wheelchair without asking is a big no. Moreover, if the person has a guide dog, do not interact with it, especially not without asking.
Learning to expand your views
Something that could help you understand disabilities and people with disabilities is learning about them. Often, it is simply a lack of knowledge that causes us to not behave in a preferred way in a situation. For instance, it’s important to learn about autism and understand that each person with this disability is different and potentially requires a different kind of approach. In case you have a close acquaintance or family member with hearing impairment, learning even just a little bit of sign language will go a long way.
If you’re an employer and you have people with disabilities in your company (or perhaps you’re looking to diversify your talent pool), it’s even more essential to get properly informed. It is necessary in order to create premises that are safe and do not hinder people with disabilities in any way so that they can be independent and do their job. If you are serious about this, attending sessions and workshops can be very useful to acquire knowledge on this front and make your workplace accepting and diverse.
Again, this can be different with each individual, but usually, it’s okay to ask the person with disability questions if you are not certain how you should act. They might also be willing to talk about their issues, but then again, they might not. In that case, you shouldn’t feel offended but respect their decision.
Another important thing to remember is to be careful with your terms when talking to a person with a disability and avoid labels. You might want to inform yourself about people first language to avoid saying something not preferred. This terminology helps you avoid accidentally defining the person by their disability. If the person with a disability has an aide or some other kind of companion, you should still talk to the person, not the companion.
Although this highly depends on the kind of disability the person in question has, you might need to be patient when communicating. If, for example, the person has a speech impairment, you might need to ask them to repeat something (which is okay) and ask questions that require short answers. If they have some kind of cognitive disability, make sure you speak slowly and give them time to answer you.
In the end, it all should be about accepting and embracing differences rather than pretending they are not there. It might be awkward when you don’t know how to treat a person with a disability, but hopefully, these tips will give you some guidance. Don’t forget that informing yourself well and treating everyone with respect is of the utmost importance.