Try these suggestions for being supportive of people with disabilities
This coming December 3 is a worldwide awareness day: the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. According to the United Nations, over 1 billion people around the world have some form of disability. Roughly 100 million of these people are children.
While there have been improvements in supporting people’s needs, there is still work to be done. People with disabilities need more affordable healthcare. They need to be included in everyday activities without barriers. And they need to be safe from discrimination, stigma, or violence.
What are some of the things you can do to help?
- Get involved in campaigns or nonprofit groups that support people with disabilities, such as the Campaign for Disability Employment.
- Write to your representatives about disabilities-related policies.
- Ask your employer to improve their efforts to employ people with disabilities.
- Post supportive messages on social media.
- Help ensure that events at your school or workplace are inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities.
How can you help a person with a disability?
The term “disability” includes a range of different disabilities, from physical disabilities to cognitive disabilities. When you interact with a person with a disability, you want to be sure you are acting appropriately. It can be difficult to know what is appropriate if you do not know the person or do not understand their disability. Here are some pointers that can help:
1. Treat the person as an equal.
People with disabilities are just like everyone else and want to be treated that way. Don’t be over-helpful. Don’t use a baby voice or speak condescendingly. Don’t be afraid to approach them. Simply treat the person as you would treat anyone else.
2. Ask before helping.
If you see a person with a disability struggling with something, don’t assume they want your help. The person may not want or need any help at all, and it may be taking away from their independence if you jump in and help. On the other hand, they might be in a pinch and very relieved to have your help. All you need to do is ask!
3. Use “person-first” language.
In general, people with disabilities do not want to be defined by their disabilities. It helps to use “person first language” when speaking about a person with a disability. For example, you would say a “child with autism” rather than an “autistic child.” This helps to put the emphasis on the person and not on the disability.
4. Do not stare
Remember that people with disabilities have the same feelings as everyone else. They do not want to be stared at in public. Simply look the person in the eye and smile and move on, just as you do with others.
5. Be appropriate with parents
If you see a child with a disability, don’t ask the parents about the disability. If you want to comment on the child, simply say things that you would say to any parent, like “your child is so polite” or “you must be so proud of him.” Or to the child, you could say something like: “I really like your light-up shoes” or “Do you like Elmo too?”
If a friend or family member has a child with a disability, make sure you are a good listener. Don’t offer unsolicited advice, but rather just offer a shoulder to lean on. If possible, offer to babysit or lend a hand in caring for the child.
We hope this December 3, during the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, you can take a moment to reflect on the people in your life who have disabilities and make efforts throughout the year to be sensitive and supportive.
The Branford Hall Career Institute includes information and resources on a variety of public health issues in our weekly blog. We hope these resources help our students and the public to gain awareness of important health issues that affect people in our communities and throughout the world.