The following information was taken from a brochure by the Tennessee Disability Coalition
Fear of the unknown and lack of knowledge about how to act can lead to uneasiness when meeting a person who has different abilities. Remember – a person with different abilities is a person with feelings. Treat him or her as you would want to be treated.
You can’t always see someone’s different abilities. If a person acts “unusual” or seems different, just be yourself. Let common sense and friendship break down any barriers you may encounter.
When meeting and talking with a person who has a different abilities:
1. A handshake is NOT a standard greeting for everyone. When in doubt, ASK the person whether she or he would like to shake hands with you. A smile along with a spoken greeting is always appropriate.
2. Speak directly to the person, not just to the ones accompanying him or her.
3. Don’t mention a person’s disability, unless he or she talks about it or it is relevant to the conversation.
4. Treat adults as adults.
5. Be patient and give your undivided attention, especially with someone who is speaking slowly or with great effort.
6. Never pretend to understand what a person is saying. Ask the person to repeat or rephrase, or offer a pen and paper.
7. It is okay to use common expressions like “see you soon” or “I’d better be running along.”
8. Relax. Anyone can make mistakes. Offer an apology if you forget some courtesy. Keep a sense of humor and a willingness to communicate.
When meeting someone with different abilities that affect learning, “intelligence”, or brain function:
1. Keep your communication simple. Rephrase comments or questions for better clarity.
2. Stay focused on the person as he or she responds to you.
3. Allow the person time to tell or show you what he or she wants.
When you are with a person who uses a wheelchair:
1. The wheelchair is part of his or her personal space. Do not push, lean on or hold onto a person’s wheelchair unless the person ask you to.
2. Try to put yourself at eye level when talking with someone in a wheelchair. Sit or kneel in front of the person.
3. Rearrange furniture or objects to accommodate a wheelchair before the person arrives.
4. Offer to tell where accessible restrooms and water fountains are located.
5. When giving directions to a person in a wheelchair, consider distance, weather conditions, and physical obstacles (curbs, stairs, steep hills, etc.)