The TYs participated in a two day workshop (Thur 7th Jan & Tue 12 Jan) on Disability Awareness with Richard Alcorn from the Donegal Centre for Independent Living. Richard shared his own experience with the TYs and showed a PowerPoint presentation on DCIL as well as a video on disability in the developing world.
Richard explained the current etiquette for interaction with a person with a disability. People shouldn’t feel awkward when interacting with a person who has a disability. Below are some basic tips for us all to follow. If you are ever unsure how to interact with a person who has a disability, just ask!
1. Ask before you help
Just because someone has a disability, don’t assume s/he needs help. Ask before you help! And if s/he does want help, ask how, before you act.
2. Be sensitive about physical contact
Some people with disabilities depend on their arms for balance. Grabbing a person with a disability, even if your intention is to assist, could knock them off balance. Avoid patting a person on the head or touching his wheelchair, scooter or cane. People with disabilities consider their equipment part of their personal space.
3. Think before you speak
Speak directly to a person with a disability....not to his/her companion or sign language Interpreter. Talk to the person as you would to anyone else.
4. Don’t make assumptions
People with disabilities are the best judge of what they can and cannot do. Don’t make decisions for them.
5. Respond graciously to requests
When a person with a disability asks for an accommodation of some kind at your place of learning/work/business, it is not a complaint. Please respond in a positive manner.
6. Terminology Tips
a) Always put the person first. Say “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person.”
b) Say “people with disabilities” rather than “the disabled.”
c) For specific disabilities, saying “person with Tourette syndrome” or “person who has cerebral palsy” is usually a safe bet.
d) Avoid outdated terms like “handicapped”, “crippled”, or “retarded.” Be aware that many people with disabilities dislike euphemistic terms like “physically challenged” and “differently abled.” Say “person who uses a wheelchair” or “wheelchair user” rather than “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair bound.” The wheelchair is what enables the person to get around and participate in society; it’s liberating, not confining. With any disability, avoid negative, disempowering words, like “victim” or “sufferer.”
7. Commonly used phrases will not cause offence
It’s okay to use idiomatic expressions when talking to people with disabilities. For example, saying, “It was good to see you,” and “See you later,” to a person who is blind is completely acceptable; they use these expressions themselves all the time.
In the coming weeks, the TYs are hoping to carry out a questionnaire or make a short video to raise awareness on disability in our school and our community. Watch this space!