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Brush up on disability etiquette, then school your friends!

People can get uncomfortable around people with disabilities because it’s unfamiliar, but the general premise “treat others how you would like to be treated,” should still apply. Below are some tips to help you deal with the extra details that may come along with having a friend or classmate who's disabled.

  • If you think a person with a disability needs help, ask them first before acting.

  • It is okay to politely ask someone for details about an obvious disability, but recognize that it’s also okay for them not to want to talk about it.

  • Keep in mind that just because someone is in a wheelchair, it is not because they are sick or weak.

  • When you visit public places, like restaurants, malls, or the movies, check beforehand to see if the venue has handicap access. If not, ask the management to put in ramps, and put in Braille numbers on elevators and signs.

  • Invite friend with disabilities to your house for normal activities, like sleepovers or play dates. They’re people too!

  • If an interpreter is helping you speak with a deaf person, make sure you talk to the deaf person, not the interpreter.

  • Know that it's okay to ask people who have speech problems to repeat what they said if you didn't understand the first time.

  • Be considerate of the extra time it might take a person with a disability to get things done – let them set the pace when walking or talking.

  • If you’re talking to a person with a speaking disability, give them your full unhurried attention. Be patient. Don’t just jump in and try to speak for him or her.

  • Don’t lean or hang on someone’s wheelchair when talking to them - wheelchairs are an extension of personal space.

  • If you’re helping someone with a vision disability, let the person take your arm so you are guiding them instead of pushing them or leading them.

  • When directing a person with a visual impairment, use specifics such as "left a hundred feet" or "right two yards".

  • Never pet or play with Seeing Eye dogs. They can't be distracted from the job they are doing.

  • And lastly, relax. Don't be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions, such as "See you later" or "I've got to run", that seem to relate to the person's disability.

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