People with disabilities
are people first. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) officially changed the way
people with disabilities are referred to and provided the model. The person is first and
then the disability. This emphasizes the person and not the disability.
Do use the word "disability"
when referring to someone who has a physical, mental, emotional, sensory or learning impairment.
Avoid labeling individuals
as victims, or the disabled, or names of conditions. Instead, refer to "people with
disabilities" or to "someone who has epilepsy."
Avoid terms such as
"wheelchair bound." Wheelchairs provide access and enable individuals to get
around. Instead, refer to "a person who uses a wheelchair" or "someone
with a mobility impairment."
When it is appropriate
to refer to an individuals disability, choose the correct terminology for the specific
disability. Use terms such as quadriplegia, speech impairment, hearing impairment, or
specific learning disability.
When introduced, offer
to shake hands. People with limited hand use or artificial limbs can usually shake hands.
It is an acceptable greeting to use the left hand for shaking.
Treat adults as adults.
Avoid patronizing people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the shoulder or touching
their head. Never place your hands on a persons wheelchair as the chair is a part
of the body space of the user.
If possible, sit down
when talking at length to a person who uses a wheelchair, so that you are at the persons
Speak directly to the
person with the disability. Do not communicate through another person. If the person uses
an interpreter, look at the person and speak to the person, not to the interpreter.
Offer assistance with
sensitivity and respect. Ask if there is something you might do to help. If the offer
is declined, do not insist.
If you are a sighted
guide for a person with a visual impairment, allow the person to take your arm at or above
the elbow so that you guide rather than propel.
When talking with a
person with a speech impediment, listen attentively, ask short questions that require
short answers, avoid correcting, and repeat what you understand if you are uncertain.
When first meeting
a person with blindness or low vision, identify yourself and any others who may be with
When speaking to a
person with a hearing impairment, look directly at the person and speak slowly. Avoid
placing your hand over your mouth when speaking. Written notes may be helpful for short
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Student Services. Report problems to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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