Etiquette with the disabled

A good place to start treating those with disabilities with respect is the language you use. Your choice of words and the way you say them have an enormous impact on the way you interact with others. Many disability groups consider terms such as “physically challenged” patronizing:

 

Avoid using words such as “handicapped,” or “crippled,” to refer to those with disabilities.

 

Avoid using words such as “healthy” and “normal” to refer to those without disabilities.

 

Don’t refer to someone as “wheelchair-bound” or “confined to a wheelchair.”

 

Use people-first terminology. A general rule is to acknowledge the disability but always place the person first. Simple as it may sound, if you use the term “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person,”you’re off to a good start. For example, the preferred term for a person who can’t speak is “without speech” — not “mute” and never “dumb.”

Talk to everyone in a medium tone of voice. Don’t talk too loudly to anyone with a disability.

Avoid getting overly concerned about figures of speech in the presence of people with disabilities. You can say “I see what you mean!” to someone who has a visual impairment, for example, and you can invite someone who uses a wheelchair to go for a walk.

For more on business etiquette, check out our intstant download Business Etiquette training package.