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Appropriate Language

bullet 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.
bullet Do use the word "disability" when referring to someone who has a physical, mental, emotional, sensory or learning impairment.
bullet Avoid labeling individuals as victims, or the disabled, or names of conditions. Instead, refer to "people with disabilities" or to "someone who has epilepsy."
bullet 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."
bullet When it is appropriate to refer to an individual’s disability, choose the correct terminology for the specific disability. Use terms such as quadriplegia, speech impairment, hearing impairment, or specific learning disability.


Appropriate Interaction

bullet 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.
bullet 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 person’s wheelchair as the chair is a part of the body space of the user.
bullet If possible, sit down when talking at length to a person who uses a wheelchair, so that you are at the person’s eye level.
bullet 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.
bullet Offer assistance with sensitivity and respect. Ask if there is something you might do to help. If the offer is declined, do not insist.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet When first meeting a person with blindness or low vision, identify yourself and any others who may be with you.
bullet 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 conversations.

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