General Do’s and Don’ts Get link to section General Do’s and Don’ts

  • Relax and enjoy getting to know your colleagues or guests as people and as professionals
  • Ask before you provide assistance
  • Do not assume that a person with an apparent disability needs assistance; offering assistance in broad terms such as Let me know if you need anything opens the door without assumptions of inability
  • Think in terms of ‘Disability Pride’ language using powerful words such as: wheelchair user as opposed to confined to a wheelchair or wheelchair person; person who is deaf or blind rather than deaf or blind people

Individuals with Mobility Disabilities Get link to section Individuals with Mobility Disabilities

  • Do not touch a person’s mobility equipment
  • Be sensitive about physical contact in consideration of possible pain, balance, or post-traumatic stress issues
  • Always direct your conversation that is meant for the person with a disability to them and not to their personal assistant, interpreter, companion or colleague
  • If convenient and natural, put yourself at the person’s eye level when engaging in a conversation; rather than kneeling, pull up a chair

Individuals who are Blind or Low Vision Get link to section Individuals who are Blind or Low Vision

  • Identify yourself when approaching the person or entering an ongoing conversation; announce when you leave the conversation or the room
  • When serving as a sighted guide, offer your arm or shoulder rather than grabbing the person’s arm or pushing the person from the back
  • Describe the setting, environment, and obstacles when serving as a sighted guide
  • Resist the temptation to pet or talk to a guide or service animal; ask the person if there is a time when you can interact with the service animal
  • Offer to read the information if the occasion naturally arises such as during a roundtable or a meal

Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing Get link to section Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

  • Gain the person’s attention before starting a conversation (e.g., tap the person gently on the shoulder or arm or by a hand signal)
  • If the individual uses a sign language interpreter, speak directly to the person, not the interpreter; keep your eyes on the individual and not on the interpreter, especially when the interpreter is voicing for the person who is deaf
  • Face the person, speak in normal tones, and avoid the instinct to shout as it doesn’t help

Individuals who have Speech Disabilities Get link to section Individuals who have Speech Disabilities

  • If you do not understand what the person is saying, ask the person to repeat what they said and then repeat it back to ensure you understood
  • Do not speak for the person or attempt to finish their sentences
  • If the conversation is not working, explain that and ask if you can try with writing (e.g. electronic communication devices, paper and pencil, etc.)

Individuals who have Non-Apparent Disabilities Get link to section Individuals who have Non-Apparent Disabilities

If you sense that the conversation or interaction is not going well, the following strategies may help to accommodate non-apparent disabilities such as mental health disabilities, learning disabilities, autism spectrum, mild hearing loss, ADD/ADHD, and Post Traumatic Stress:

  • Moving to a quiet area
  • Rephrasing what you said
  • Changing the pace of the conversation