iv. myth & facts
vii. case studies
ix. completion certificate
A. How to Communicate
General Tips for Communicating with People with Disabilities
Always focus on the individual, not the disability. Use “people first”
language – meaning, refer to the individual first, then to his or her
disability. (It is better to say “the person with a disability” rather
than “the disabled.”)
When communicating with an individual with a disability, speak directly
to the person with the disability rather than their companion or
When introduced to a person with a disability, it is appropriate to
offer to shake hands. If the person has limited hand use or has an
artificial limb, it is ok to shake what is offered to you. It is equally
acceptable to politely touch them on the shoulder/arm or offer a
smile/nod to reciprocate a warm greeting.
Any and all assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, canes,
communication boards, service animals, etc. should always be respected
as personal property or extensions of that person. Do not use, lean on,
play with or move unless given permission.
If you would like to offer assistance to a person with a disability,
always ask first, wait until the offer is accepted, then listen
patiently and follow their instructions. If the person declines your
help, respect their decision and do not proceed to assist.
Relax. It is ok to use expressions such as “See you later,” or “Did you
hear about this?” as it is common phrases that everyone uses, including
people with disabilities.
As with all other etiquette issues, when mistakes are made, apologize,
correct the problem, learn from the mistake, and move on.
Specific communication tips for working with people with Mobility
Persons with mobility impairments have limited use or have lost the
function of their limb(s) or an entire portion of their body. Depending
on the location and scope of the loss, the person may have difficulty
physically handling things or may require support for some other
function. Appropriate support and accommodation from assistive devices
such as wheelchairs, crutches, prosthetics, computerized head sticks and
other equipment enable persons with physical disabilities to become
independent and productive members of the workplace.
Never lean on the
person’s wheelchair, unless permitted. The chair is part of the space
that belongs to the person who uses it.
When talking with a
person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, “squat down” or use
a chair, if possible, in order to place yourself at the person’s eye
level to facilitate conversation.
Do not talk down to the
person or make inappropriate gestures such as patting the person on the
head. Refrain from using remarks such as “you have a license to drive
that thing” or “how fast can that go” to initiate conversation with
persons in wheelchairs.
tips for people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing communicate in different ways.
In the United States, most people who are deaf use American Sign
Language (ASL). ASL, however, it is not a universal language and is a
language with its own syntax and grammatical structure. Some persons who
are deaf use speech, sign, or finger-spell; not all people who are deaf
can lip-read either. The key in working with persons who are deaf and
hard of hearing is to find out what techniques they prefer to use.
To get the attention of a
person with a hearing impairment, tap the person on the shoulder or wave
When speaking, look
directly at the person and speak clearly, naturally and slowly to
establish if the person can read lips. Not all persons with hearing
impairments can lip-read. Those who can will rely on facial expression
and other body language to help in understanding.
Show consideration by
placing yourself facing the light source and keeping your hands,
cigarettes, and food away from your mouth while speaking.
Do not shout at a hearing
impaired person. Shouting distorts sounds accepted through hearing aids
and inhibits lip reading.
If you are with someone
with a hearing disability in a group, provide whatever support with
which the person is comfortable so that the person can follow what is
tips for working with people with Blind or Visual Impairments
When we think of blindness, we tend to think of total darkness. However,
there are varying degrees of sight. A person considered “legally blind”
may not be able to recognize a person across the room, but may still be
able to see printed materials when held very close. Low vision can
likely be affected by light, direction, movement, or glare. With the
right accommodation and support, people who are blind or visually
impaired have the same range of abilities as anyone else.
When greeting a person
with a severe loss of vision, always identify yourself and others who
may be with you. Example: “On my right is Robert Smith.”
When conversing in a
group, identify the person to whom you are speaking. Let the person know
if you move or need to end the conversation.
Do not shout at a person
who is blind or visually impaired – he or she can hear you!
Never automatically guide
a person with a vision impairment. Allow the person to take your arm (at
or about the elbow) – this will enable you to guide rather than propel
or lead the person.
Avoid pointing or using
non-descriptive directions such as “over there” or “up ahead”. More
appropriate words are “two feet to your left” or “beside you on the
tips for working with people who have Cognitive or Psychiatric
Since cognitive disabilities are invisible disabilities, it may not be
noticed unless disclosed from the person. Varying degrees of this type
of disability effect differently from person to person. Persons with
learning disabilities typically have average to above average
intelligence, and can be highly functional when given appropriate support
Speak in a normal volume,
tone, and pace.
Act as a peer at an
Don’t assume the person
is not listening just because you are not getting verbal or visual feedback.
Ask him/her whether she understands or agrees.
Don’t assume you have to
explain everything to people with learning disabilities. They do not
necessarily have a problem with general comprehension.
tips for working with people with Speech and Language Impairments
Persons with Speech and Language Impairments often have difficulty
expressing their thoughts verbally, which may not be associated with any
cognitive or learning disability. Impairments in speech are often a
result of a trauma such as a stroke or other pre-existing physical
Listen attentively when
you’re talking to a person who has speech impairments.
Exercise patience rather
than attempting to speak for a person with speech difficulty. When
necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, a nod or a
shake of the head.
Never pretend to
understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Repeat what you
understand and the person’s reactions will clue you in and guide you to
Speak with a normal tone
of voice. Most speech-impaired persons can hear and understand without
Test your knowledge