Living in a Diverse Culture Language - A Powerful Tool Easy Ways to Avoid Inappropriate Language
People with disabilities are part of the “ Handicapped Rules to use when writing or speaking
landscape in a diverse America. The more man confined about people with disabilities: DON’Ts DOs
Disrespectful terms Respectful terms
than 54 million Americans with disabilities to wheelchair...”
are neighbors, friends, classmates, family “Girl stricken with 1. Always use people-first language.
members and co-workers. cerebral palsy...” Refer to the person first and not his
Words and phrases or her disability. Do not say “a disabled
People with disabilities are people first. such as these person.” Instead, refer to “ a person
Yes, disabilities are part of their lives, but shape incorrect with a disability.”
disabilities do not define people. perceptions
of people 2. Never group individuals together
with disabilities. as “the mentally retarded,” which
Changes in laws, Negative attitudes puts the focus on the disability,
technology, public are often the not on the individual.
policies and greatest barrier for
attitudes have people with disabilities to overcome. Even the 3. Avoid emotional and sensationalist
opened word “handicap” itself is considered insulting words. People with disabilites are often
opportunities by many because it was a term coined by either thought of as inspirational and
for people with people outside the disability community. courageous or pitiful and in need of
disabilities to charity. Both extremes are erroneous
pursue education, stereotypes.
employment in Be sensitive when choosing words. The
the mainstream reality is that people with disabilities
of community succeed not “in spite of ” their disabilities
life. Like other but “in spite of ” an inaccessible and
Americans, people with disabilites live, By working together to create positive discriminatory society. They do not
work, attend school, play, worship and attitudes toward people with disabilities, “overcome” their disabilities so much
volunteer in their communities. we can create a better society - and as “overcome” prejudice.
that is a positive step for everyone.
The Indiana Governor’s Planning You can help by using nonjudgmental
Council for People with Disabilities terms and phrases that portray an image
designed this brochure to help enhance of dignity and respect.
understanding and communication in
everyday interactions with people with
Ten Commandments of Etiquette
7. Listen attentively when you’re talking
The following “ Ten Comnmandments of Etiquette with a person who has difficulty speaking.
for Communicating with People with Disabilities” will Be patient and wait for the person to
help you communicate more effectively with people finish, rather than correcting or speaking
with disabilities. for the person. If necessary, ask short
questions that require short answers,
1. When talking with a person with a a nod or shake of the head. Never pretend
disability, use eye contact and speak to understand if you are having difficulty
directly to that person rather than through in doing so. Instead, repeat what you
a companion or sign language interpreter. have understood and allow the person
2. When introduced to a person with a
disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake 8. When speaking with a person who uses a
hands. People with limited hand use or wheelchair or a person who uses crutches,
who wear an artificial limb usually can place yourself at eye level in front of the
shake hands, (Shaking hands with the Connecticut Governor’s
person to facilitate the conversation.
Committee on Employment
The Power of Words
left hand is an acceptable greeting.) .
9. To get the attention of a person who is of People with Disabilities
3. When meeting a person who is visually deaf, tap the person on the shoulder or A Guide to Interacting with
impaired, always identify yourself and wave your hand. Look directly at the 200 Folly Brook Boulevard
People with Disabilities
others who may be with you. When person and speak clearly, slowly and Wethersfield, CT 06109
conversing in a group, remember to expressively to determine if the person
identify the person to whom you are can read your lips. Be sensitive to those Telephone: (860) 263-6067
speaking. who lip read by placing yourself so that Fax: (860) 263-6039
you face the light source and keeping TTY: (860) 263-6074
4. If you offer assistance, wait until the hands and food away from your mouth Web site: www.ct.gov/dol
offer is accepted. Then listen to or ask when speaking.
10. Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you use
5. Treat adults as adults. Address people common expressions - such as “See You
who have disabilities by their first names later” or “Did you hear about that?” -
only when extending the same familiarity that seem to relate to a person’s disability.
to all others. Never patronize people It’s okay to ask questions when you’re
who use wheelchairs by patting them unsure of what to do.
on the head or shoulder.
Sources: Guidelines to Reporting and Writing About People with
Disabilities, produced by the Media Project, Research and Training
6. A wheelchair is part of the personal body Center on Independent Living, 4089 Dole, University of Kansas,
Lawrence, KS 66045; Ten Commandments of Etiquette for
space of the person who uses it. Leaning Communicating with People with Disabilities, National Center for
on a person’s wheelchair is similar to Access Unlimited, 155 North Wacker Drive, Suite 315, Chicago,
IL 60606; and Beyond the AP Stylebook: Language and Usage . . Committee on Employment
leaning on a person and is generally Guide for Reporters and Editors, The Advocado Press, Inc.
of People with Disabilities