RoseParks/Disability Etiquette

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Disability Etiquette describes the correct way to interact with a disabled person. These rules have been developed based on the needs of the disabled. These rules are, however, often in conflict with the impulses of the able. Nevertheless, if one wants to show concern and respect for a disabled person one would be wise to consider the following guidelines:

1. Do not offer to help a disabled person. Wait for him/her to ask for help or possibly not ask at all. This does not apply to a disabled person, needing help, who cannot express this need. Disabled people, in general, want to be as independent as possible. They do not want people hovering over them to take care of everything little thing for them. In any case, always offer first and respect the disabled person's wishes-don't just drive in and help.

2. Do not touch a disabled person's assistive devices without permission. This includes wheelchairs, canes, crutches, etc. This also includes service animals, like seeing-eyed dogs. A disabled person's assistive equipment is part of his/her personal space. To do so is equivalent to grabbing an able person's leg or arm, without permission. Again, disabled people prefer to be as independent as possible. A person in a wheelchair does not want someone pushing them around, without permission. Such a person is trying very hard to get around on his/her own.

3. If a disabled person has an escort or aide, do not interact solely, or mainly, with such a companion. The disabled person is a person too. Do whatever is necessary to communicate with the disabled person. This includes kneeling down to make eye contact and talk to a person in a wheelchair, introducing yourself to a blind person and speaking enough to let them identify your voice and location, and much more.

4. Speak normally to a disabled person, using words like "see," "hear," "walk," etc., as you normally would. Disabled people are used to normal English. A blind person will not be insulted if you say, "It looks like it is going to rain," or "Do you see what I mean?"

5. It is considered polite to offer to describe to a disabled person what he/she cannot perceive, him/herself. If you are traveling in an unfamiliar place, offer to describe the scenery and where you are at different points to a blind person. If you are at a place where there is music or unusual noise, offer to describe it to a deaf person.

6. Do not ask a disabled person how they got that way. If a disabled person chooses to share this information he/she will do so. A disabled person has the right to believe that he/she is interesting per se. In other words, they want to be judged by what they are, as individuals, just like able people.

7. Do not make assumptions about what a disabled person can or can not do, based on stereotypes, you may hold, of different disabilities. In some ways this rule should come first. There is a saying that "We are all disabled by the stereotypes we hold of other people's disabilities." This is quite true.