When you meet a person with a disability

Points to Remember

  • Remember that people with disabilities are people first.
  • Explore your mutual interests in a friendly way. The person has many interests besides those concerned with the disability. Talk about the disability only if it comes up naturally.
  • Offer assistance if asked, or if the need seems obvious, but don't overdo it or insist on it. Respect the person's right to indicate the kind of help needed.
  • Remember that difficulties the person may face can stem more from society's attitudes and barriers than from the disability itself.
  • Be considerate of the extra time it might take for the person with a disability to get things said or done. Let the person set the pace in walking or talking.
  • Speak directly to a person who has a disability. Don't consider a companion to be a conversational go-between.
  • Never start to push a wheelchair without asking the occupant if you may do so.
  • Don't lean on a person's wheelchair when talking or in other settings.
  • Don't remove a wheelchair or assistive device out of reach of the person using them.
  • When pushing a person in a wheelchair up or down steps, ramps, curbs or other obstructions, ask the person how he or she wants you to proceed.
  • Give whole, unhurried attention to the person who has difficulty speaking. Don't talk for the person, but give help when needed.
  • Be alert to environmental barriers in places you may want to enter with a person who has a disability. In addition to parking, ramps, accessible restrooms and maneuvering space for wheelchairs, consider lighting adequacy for sign language interpreting and absence of head-height obstacles for people who are blind.