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5 Sensible Guidelines for Interacting with Individuals with Disabilities

Those living with disabilities and those who work with such individuals are all too familiar with others’ discomforts. Certainly, ignorance and prejudice can spark discomfort. At the same time, some people fear they’ll say or do something wrong, and yet others fall somewhere in between. No matter where you place yourself on the spectrum, it’s helpful to review some basic guidelines for interacting with individuals with disabilities. For this reason, Direct Care Innovations covers five basic guidelines for you – and for you to share with others.

5 Sensible Guidelines for Interacting with Individuals with Disabilities

1. Be Yourself and Act Natural

People living with disabilities are just that: people. Please don’t make assumptions about their physical or intellectual capacity, and then base your interactions on those assumptions. Instead, engage with them as you would any other stranger in line for coffee or in any other context. Thus, if you spot someone sitting alone, consider being friendly and saying hello. Your initial interaction and their subsequent instructions may allow for adjusted interaction. However, wait for those signs to become apparent, and then proceed accordingly. 

2. Stay Away from Personal Questions

Curiosity can be intrusive, especially when you don’t know someone well. If you wouldn’t appreciate a stranger asking you intimate personal questions, understand that it’s the same when interacting with individuals with disabilities. That being said, there are some possible exceptions. First, a human resources professional may have to ask certain questions to determine whether someone can perform a job and accommodations. However, laws stipulate what can be asked. Also, if you form a deeper relationship with someone, it may be more appropriate to ask some questions, but this depends on the person, your relationship, and other variables.

3. Follow Their Lead

This goes back to assumptions. While many who live with disabilities may share the same experiences, pet peeves, and views as you do, many differences will also exist. Some people may prefer extra help and accommodations, while others may value self-reliance and strive to be independent, even if some things are harder. These situations are unique to each individual, and it’s best to allow them to take the lead and follow them accordingly. 

4. Offer Help When Needed, But Respect Their “No”

When interacting with individuals with disabilities, people often offer help. When anyone appears to be struggling, the kind thing to do is to offer help. At the same time, they may decline, and that’s okay. It could be that the person doesn’t want help, it could be that they require skilled assistance, or there could be another reason. Whatever the case may be, always respect when an individual says, “no.” Finally, if they accept help, allow them to direct you since they are in the best position to know what they need and what is helpful.

5. Avoid Minimizing and Making Light of Disabilities

Most people have good intentions and want to be helpful, encouraging, and positive. But even the best intentions can land wrong. One mistake people make is minimizing disabilities. For example, this could come in the form of a compliment, such as, “I love how you don’t let your disability rule you.” This remark could land for some, but it may be not very kind to others. 

DCI serves all 50 states to provide business management solutions and EVV software for managed health care agencies. We can’t cover the entire spectrum of interactions in a five-step process. The goal is to create more awareness and foster an environment that is inclusive and respectful to all. Call us at (480) 295-3307 to learn how we can help you. Or check out a free software demo here.

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