Disability isn’t equal to incapability and abnormality. Because of their individual impairment, people with disabilities usually become left out in society. Sadly, not all people who acknowledge the disability community little on respecting them. Worse, many people are being ableist, either purposefully or not, due to their lack of disability awareness and education.
5 Tips For Respecting The Disability Community
Thankfully, several communities and organizations help people with disabilities to live their lives conveniently. You can learn more here on how these types of organizations offer comprehensive services to the disability community, including recreation, family and caregiver support, financial planning, housing, and career guidance.
As a mere individual, here are five tips on how you can show your respect to people with disabilities that you may encounter in your everyday life:
Treat Them As Humans, Not For Their Disability
Individuals with disabilities are often treated differently. However, every person with a disability deserves to be treated with respect. This is not because they have a disability that you don’t possess, but because they’re no different than you. Also, displaying agitation and special treatment is disrespectful to them, not the other way around.
Simply put, one’s disability doesn’t define who they entirely are. If you’re speaking to a person with a disability, just be yourself and show respect!
Never Look And Talk Down As A Sign Of Pity
Another huge disrespect that the disability community encounters regularly is how most people pity them for their conditions. It’s an insult on their part to be seen as individuals who got it worse in life because of their unique situations.
Moreover, many people talk to individuals with disabilities as if they’re babies or kneel when talking to them. As much as possible, talk to them at eye level to keep them from feeling inferior. Sitting on a table or chair to reduce any physical differences will also do.
Reconsider Your Language Choices & Don’t use the R-word!
Words can highly wound a person. When talking about anything related to the disability community, even without its members’ presence, always be careful with your choice of language. For example, those in the autism community prefer to be referred to as autistic instead of a person with autism. However, this is an individual decision. If the individual with autism requests you say “with autism”, then respecting that request is a must.
For instance, calling a person the R-word (retard, retarded) is straight-up offensive and is considered hate speech. While often aimed at people with a ‘cognitive or learning disability, it has become prevalent in social media. Always emphasize the person first rather than their disability.
The R-word, also known as the R-slur, is a hurtful term that remains prevalent throughout social media, according to a Kantar Social Listening study. The research shows that when social media users are posting about people with intellectual disabilities, 7 in every 10 of those posts are negative, and 6 in 10 contain a slur.
While “mental retardation” was originally introduced as a medical term in 1961 for people with intellectual disabilities, in the decades since, the R-word has become an insult used all too commonly in everyday language. Those who use the R-word often do so with little regard for the pain it causes people with intellectual disabilities—and the exclusion it perpetuates in our society.https://www.specialolympics.org/stories/impact/why-the-r-word-is-the-r-slur
Here are other offensive terms you may be using but are completely unaware of:
- Disabled, deformed, or handicapped person: Person with disability
- Cripple: Person requiring mobility assistance
- Emotionally disturbed: Person with an emotional disability
Respecting The Disability Community
Don’t Touch Their Equipment Without Permission.
Assistive technology, such as wheelchairs, canes, hearing aids, and artificial limbs, are personal spaces for people with disabilities. It’s disrespectful to meddle with these pieces of equipment, let alone touch them.
Secondly, this applies to service animals as well. Whether it is a Seeing Eye Dog, PTSD service animal, mobility assistance dogs, seizure/diabetes alert dogs, or emotional support animal, do not touch the animal or interfere. These animals are working to keep their person safe and be able to do everyday things that others take for granted.
Speak To The Person First, Not Their Caregiver
A person with a disability may have a caregiver with them. However, it’s impolite to approach their caregiver first if you wish to talk to the individual with a disability.
Many people think it would be better to call the caregiver’s attention as talking directly to people with a speech impediment or mental disability can make communication less efficient. Doing so will make them feel incapable and, yes, different, so make it a point to approach them first.
Respecting The Disability Community
Respecting the disability community is a must at all times to keep them from feeling incapable or different. So, keep the above tips in mind to further empower this sector that’s often misunderstood. That all said, remember that individuals with disabilities are people before anything else. The best first step is to say “Hi.”