If we’re not used to dealing with disabled people, we may feel awkward when we come across someone with a disability. We may not know how best to help them – and we might cause offence without meaning to.
A lot of the time, we worry unnecessarily – for example, it’s perfectly all right to say ‘I don’t see why…’ when talking to a blind or visually impaired person. But there are some common mistakes that non-disabled people make when dealing with disabled people – and here are five of the most common.
1. Taking a blind or visually impaired person’s arm
Most people actually prefer to take your arm, not the other way around – so don’t grab a person to guide them. Instead, offer your arm if they need it and be sure to warn them of any obstacles.
2. Shouting at someone with a hearing impairment
Shouting doesn’t make us easier to understand – in fact, it distorts our faces and it can make it harder for people with a hearing impairment to lip-read. So just speak at your normal speed and volume, and make sure that the person can see you.
3. Talking to guide dogs before their owners
We all love dogs, but it’s rude to speak to and fuss over a guide dog before addressing its owner. So always talk to the person, not the dog.
4. Standing up when talking to a wheelchair user
A wheelchair user will soon get a stiff neck from looking up at someone who’s standing. So try to get down to a similar level – they won’t think you’re being condescending, and they’ll be much more comfortable.
5. Assuming you know how to help
We may not always be the best judge of how to help someone who’s disabled. So if in doubt – just ask.
Susan Scott-Parker OBE, believes that the case for being disability confident is simple.
“Even though we have the Equality Act 2010, ‘we’re often asked ‘Why bother?’ But the ‘why bother?’ for me is pretty clear. You need to understand, one in three people are disabled or close to someone who is. You need to understand the impact that has on your talent pool. Your managers will be more effective, more efficient, if they know how to make adjustments which enable everyone to contribute. And what we see time and time again is that, if you’re good at welcoming disabled customers, everyone is getting better service. So, disability-confident organisations are just more effective all round.”
Susan Scott-Parker OBE
Top 5 mistakes: Dealing with disabled people at work
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