Disability Etiquette Tips

People with disabilities are people. A disability does not define who a person is. Here are some tips for interacting effectively with people with disabilities.

  • Avoid subconsciously dehumanizing people by using Person First language. Say “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person.” Avoid outdated words like “handicapped”, “crippled” or “mentally retarded”
  • Be conscious that not all disabilities are visible. Just because you cannot see someone’s disability doesn’t mean it’s not real.  
  • Don’t assume that because a person has a disability, they are in need of assistance. If a person appears to need assistance, ask first. Offer your arm to a person who is blind--don’t grab their arm.
  • Introduce yourself before making physical contact to a person who is blind.
  • When speaking to someone who uses a wheelchair, sit in a chair at their level or step away so they do not need to strain they neck to maintain eye contact with you.
  • Canes and wheelchairs are part of a person’s personal space. Do not touch them without permission.
  • Provide written and oral instructions whenever possible.
  • Speak directly to the person with the disability. Do not address their interpreter or companion.
  • If someone has slowed or slurred speech because of a disability, be patient. Do not finish another person’s sentence. Ask to repeat if you did not understand.
  • Rephrase, rather than repeat, statements that a person doesn’t understand.
  • Service dogs are working animals—they are not meant to be petted. Do not ask to pet a service animal. It distracts them from their task.