The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was conceived with the goal of integrating people with disabilities into all aspects of life. Sensitivity toward people with disabilities is not only in the spirit of the ADA, it makes sense. When teachers and students use disability etiquette, students with disabilities feel comfortable and learn better. Practicing disability etiquette is an easy way to make people with disabilities feel welcome.

You don't have to feel awkward when teaching and learning with a person who has a disability.  This booklet; Disability Etiquette provides some basic tips for you to follow.  And if you are ever unsure how to interact with a person who has a disability, just ask!

 The Basics

  • Ask before you help: If the setting is accessible, people with disabilities can usually get around fine.

  • People who have disabilities are individuals: your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors - so rather than use the group term "they" for people with disabilities, use the pronouns "he" or "she."

  • Be sensitive about physical contact: Avoid touching a persons wheelchair, communication device, or scooter.  People with disabilities consider their equipment part of their personal space.

  • Think before you speak: Always speak directly to the person with a disability, not to his companion, aide or sign language interpreter. 

  • Don't make assumptions: People with disabilities are the best judge of what they can and cannot do.

  • Respond graciously to requests: When a student who has a disability asks for any type of accommodations (physical or instructional), it is not a complaint.

A Final Word

People with disabilities are individuals with families, jobs, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and problems and joys.  While the disability is an integral part of who they are, it alone does not define them as a person. Treat people with disabilities as individuals.
 

This page was adapted from: United Spinal; www.unitedspinal.org