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Disability Etiquette

Below is some guidance on ensuring individuals are engaged in meaningful and positive ways.

  • Be open to correction.
    • No two individuals are the same – what one person may prefer does not apply to everyone.
    • It’s okay to make mistakes as long as effort is made to correct the mistake.
  • Be aware of the language you use.
    • Aim for using more inclusive terms, such as saying “accessible parking” instead of “handicapped parking”.
    • Practice person-first language unless specifically asked not to by an individual. For example: “student with a disability” rather than “disabled student”.
    • It’s okay to use common sayings such as “See you later” and “Gotta run”.
  • Be polite, professional, and patient at all times.
    • Avoid interrupting or completing sentences for someone.
    • Avoid “talking down” and raising your voice.
    • Offer to repeat or write down information as needed.
    • Use descriptive language: ‘The water fountain is located at the end of the right-hand hall, on the left side’ rather than ‘it’s down that hallway over there’.
  • Be cognizant of how you speak, and the direction of your speech.
    • Speak to the individual directly, regardless of whether or not they have a companion or interpreter with them.
    • Avoid blocking your mouth from eyesight when working with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.
    • Speak normally and avoid exaggerating or over-emphasizing your words.
    • Adjust your physical position so individuals do not need to strain to speak with you. For example: moving out from behind a high counter when speaking to someone in a wheelchair.
  • Respect personal space.
    • Do not assume your help is needed, and do not repeatedly offer assistance if it has been declined by an individual.
    • Never touch someone without permission. This applies to an individual’s belongings, as well.
  • Service dogs – including service dogs in training – are working and should not be distracted from their task.
    • Do not pet a service dog.
    • Do not attempt to call or feed a service dog.
    • If walking with someone handling a service dog, walk on the opposite side of the individual than the service dog.
    • It is not required for a service dog to be identified by a vest or for a handler to show any certification.

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