The biggest barriers people with disabilities encounter are other people
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Increasing awareness among New Generation

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Have you ever seen a group of children mocking the way a person with a disability walks? Have you ever overheard a child call a person with a disability a disparaging name? When children don’t understand why a person is different, they often make fun of him or her.
It is important for people to understand that people with disabilities are more alike than different. For children, this is especially important because attitudes develop during childhood by watching and listening to peers, teachers and family. Schools, clubs and youth groups are ideal places to increase knowledge about people with disabilities and to foster positive attitudes about them.
The information here is on disability awareness unit in your classroom, club, youth group, school or school district.

Interacting with People with Disabilities

There is an appropriate and inappropriate way to interact with people with disabilities. For example, the phrase “person with a disability” is preferred instead of “handicapped person” because the word “handicapped” is said to derive from “cap in hand,” a phrase associated with beggars and begging. Here’s another example: When talking to a person who is blind, do not yell or raise your voice. The person can hear just fine. The attached language guidelines and Ten Commandments of Etiquette can be duplicated and given to children.
The Easter Seal Society offers these helpful hints when meeting people with disabilities:

  • It’s okay to offer your help to someone, but don’t just go ahead. Ask first. Or wait for someone to ask you for your help.
  • It’s okay to ask people about their disabilities and it’s also okay for them not to talk about it.
  • Remember, just because people use wheelchairs, it doesn’t mean they are sick. Lots of people who use wheelchairs are healthy and strong.
  • It’s okay to ask people who have speech problems to repeat what they said if you didn’t understand the first time.
  • Don’t speak loudly when talking to people with visual impairments. They hear as well as you do.
  • Never pet or play with seeing-eye dogs or other assistance animals. They can’t be distracted from the job they are doing.
  • Invite friends with disabilities to join you in daily activities and special occasions. For example, invite friends with disabilities to sleep over, come to your house to play or to your birthday party. Think about ways to make sure they can be involved in the things you do.
  • Don’t park in places reserved for people with disabilities. Children, don’t let your parents park in these spaces.
  • When you go to restaurants and shopping malls, see if a friend with a disability would be able to be there with you. If not, ask the manager to put in ramps, get raised numbers for the elevators, or have picture menus or Braille menus printed.
  • Treat a person with a disability the way you like to be treated and you’ll have a friend for life.
  • People with disabilities are entitled to the courtesies that you extend to anyone. This includes their personal privacy. If you don’t generally ask people personal questions, then don’t ask those questions of people with disabilities.

Some general considerations for disability etiquette

  • If you don’t make a habit of leaning or hanging on to people you’re with, then don’t lean or hang on someone’s wheelchair. Wheelchairs are an extension of personal space for people who use them.
  • When you offer to assist someone who is blind, don’t grab them by the arm instead allow the person to take your arm. This will help you to guide, rather than propel or lead the person.
  • Treat people with disabilities the same way you treat others.

In conversation

  • When talking with someone with a disability, speak directly to that person rather than through a companion or interpreter who might be along.
  • Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use accepted, common expressions, such as “See you later” or “Got to be running along,” that seems to relate to the person’s disability.
  • To get the attention of a person with a hearing impairment, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively to establish if the person can read your lips. Not all persons with hearing impairments can lip-read. Those who do will rely on facial expressions and other body language to help in understanding. Show consideration by placing yourself facing the light source and keeping your hands and food away from your mouth when speaking. Shouting won’t help. Written notes will.
  • When talking with a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, place yourself at the eye level of the person to spare you both a stiff neck.
  • When greeting a person who is blind, always identify yourself and others who are with you. Say, for example, “On my right is Penelope Potts.” When conversing in a group, remember to say the name of the person to whom you are speaking to give verbal cue. Speak in a normal tone of voice, indicate when you move from one place to another and say goodbye when the conversation is at an end.
  • Give whole, unhurried attention when you’re talking to a person with a speech impairment. Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting, be patient rather than speak for the person. When necessary, ask short questions that require short answers or a nod or shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Repeat what you understand. The person’s reaction will clue you in and guide you to understanding

Some common courtesies

  • When giving directions to a person using a wheelchair, consider distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles such as stairs, curbs and steep hills.
  • Use specifics such as “left a hundred feet” or “right two yards” when directing a person who is blind.
  • Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person with a disability to get things done. Let the person set the pace in walking and other activities.
  • When planning events involving persons with disabilities, consider their needs ahead of time. If a barrier exists that you can’t fix move the event. If that’s not possible let them know about it prior to the event