Communicating with people with disabilities: Ask Me First

Uploaded by serviceresources on 22.01.2010

Hi, I'm Elena. We're here today to talk about disability etiquette.
National and community service is becoming more and more inclusive of people with disabilities
and that's a great thing. But it may not be something you're used to.
If you don't usually spend time around people with disabilities, you may feel nervous about doing or
saying the wrong thing.
As your host, I'm here to help you to relax and address any concerns you may have by providing
information about basic disability etiquette. I'll take you through some everyday scenarios
and show you ways to be respectful and help everyone to feel more comfortable. Let's take a look.

Hey Pam, I heard you had a problem this morning. What happened?
Pam: I did. I had a commuter problem.
What do you mean? You walk to work.
Pam: I know, I know. I was standing at an intersection and this woman came over to me...
... she grabbed my elbow and she started dragging me across the street.
Pam: And the funny thing is, Maria -- I wasn't even planning to go that way.
Maria: [laughs] Oh, man. That's a good one. Pam: Yeah. And when we got... the other side, I said to her: "But I didn't want to cross the street"
Well - I was just trying to help!
She got all upset with me, and she walked off in a huff, and ... you know, I never had the chance
to say to her that -- you know -- you should ask someone with a disability
if they need assistance. And if they do, they'll let you know what kind of help they need.

Maria: You know, that's like when people lean on my wheelchair.
They're really being friendly, they want to talk, but they're in my face and I have to crane my neck
to have a conversation. It would be so much easier for them to sit down next to me
at eye-to-eye level. Pam: Mm-hmm.
And the other thing is that my wheelchair is my personal space
Pam: I know. It's a lot like Scooby -- people want to pet him and it's okay to do, but
you know, you definitely have to ask me, and he needs to be off-harness
so that he isn't working. So if they ask, and he's not working, then it's fine.

It's fine to offer help. Just ask someone before you try to help them.
And ask for permission before you touch someone's walker, dog, communication device,
or anything else they may use.
If you were in this situation, how would you ask to pet a person's dog, or to see if that person
needed assistance.