with People with Disabilities
on the individual, not the disability. Use people first language, meaning,
refer to the individual first, then to his or her disability. (ex. Sally
who is deaf.)
When communicating with an individual with a disability, speak directly to
the person with the disability rather than their companion or interpreter.
Just because they have a disability doesn't mean they can't respond in
some form of communication.
When introduced to a person with a disability, it is appropriate to offer
to shake hands. If the person has an artificial limb, shake what is
offered to you. Touching is how we communicate acceptance.
2. Specific communication tips for working with people with Mobility
People with mobility impairments have limited use or their limb(s) do not
function or an entire portion of their body does not function. Appropriate
support and accommodation from assistive devices such as wheelchairs,
crutches, prosthetics, computerized head sticks and other equipment enable
persons with physical disabilities allows them to become independent and
contribute in the workplace.
Never lean on a person's wheelchair. The chair is part of their space and
if they aren't prepared for movement they can fall out and injure
Never pat a person on the head or make rude comments like "Do you have a
license to drive that thing?
3. People who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing communicate in different
ways. Most people who are deaf in the U.S. use American Sign Language,
although it is not a universal language. Some persons who are deaf can
lip-read others use speech, sign, or finger-spell.
Never shout because it distorts sounds that are accepted through hearing
aids and inhibits lip reading.
4. 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. When greeting a person with a severe loss of vision, always
identify yourself and others who may be with you.
Always ask a person with a vision impairment if they need you to help
guide them, never take it upon yourself to do it before asking permission.
5. Communicating with persons who have Cognitive disabilities
Cognitive disabilities are considered hidden disabilities, it may not
unless disclosed from the person or when you begin to communicate with the
person. Persons with developmental disabilities vary from high to low
functioning.. Persons with learning disabilities typically have average to
above average intelligence. Through appropriate support and training they
can achieve high functionality.
Speak in a normal volume, tone, and pace.
Act as a peer at an adult-to-adult level, never speak down to the person.
Don't assume the person is not listening if they are not responding
verbally or visually. Always ask him/her whether she understands or
Don't assume you have to explain everything to people with learning
disabilities. They do not necessarily have a problem with general
6. Specific communication tips for working with people with Speech and
Persons with Speech and Language Impairments often have difficulty
expressing their thoughts verbally, as a result of their cognitive or
learning disability. Impairments in speech are often a result of a trauma
such as a stroke or other pre-existing physical disability.
Listen attentively when you are communicating with a person who has speech
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 comprehending a
person with a communication disorder. If necessary repeat what you
understand and the person's reactions will indicate if you understood what
they were saying.
Speak with a normal tone of voice. Most speech-impaired persons can hear
and understand without difficulty.