Assisting people with a disability
Some of the most difficult barriers people with disabilities face are the negative attitudes and perceptions of other people. Sometimes those attitudes are just unconscious misconceptions that result in impolite or thoughtless acts by otherwise well-meaning people.
Don’t assume people with disabilities need your help. Ask before acting.
Make eye contact and speak directly to the person, not through their companion.
Avoid actions and words that suggest the person should be treated differently. It is alright to invite a person in a wheelchair to “go for a walk” or to ask a blind person if she “sees what you mean.”
Treat people with disabilities with the same respect and consideration that you have for everyone else.
Make basic information available in accessible formats: large print, Braille and electronic formats.
Offer a guided tour of any relevant facilities so that people with disabilities can familiarise themselves with the appropriate layout. The orientation also should identify any potential obstacles and all emergency exits.
For specific disabilities
V I S U A L I M PA I R M E N TS
Be descriptive. You may have to help orientate people with visual impairments and let them know what is coming up. If they are walking, tell them if they have to step up or down, let them know if the door is to their right or left and warn them of possible hazards.
You do not have to speak loudly to people with visual impairments. Most of them can hear perfectly well.
Offer to read written information for a person with a visual impairment, when appropriate.
If you are asked to guide a person with a visual impairment, offer your arm instead of grabbing theirs.
H E A R I N G I M PA I R M E N TS
Face people with hearing impairments when you talk to them so they can see your lips.
Slow the rate at which you speak when talking to a person with a hearing impairment.
Increase the level of your voice.
Communicate in writing, if necessary.
P H Y S I C A L I M PA I R M E N T S
Try sitting or crouching down to the approximate height of people in wheelchairs or scooters when you talk to them.
Do not lean on a person’s wheelchair unless you have their permission – it is their personal space.
Be aware of what is accessible and what is not accessible to people in wheelchairs.
Give a push only when asked.
I N T E L L E C T U A L D I S A B I L I T I E S
Do not assume the person is not listening just because you are getting no verbal or visual feedback. Ask whether he/she understands or agrees.
Do not assume you have to explain everything to people with intellectual disabilities. They do not necessarily have a problem with general comprehension.
Offer to read written material aloud, when necessary.