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How Can You Support People with Disabilities


Why are some people uncomfortable socializing with people with disabilities?

Some people feel sorry for the person and assume that the disabled are bitter about his condition. Others are afraid that they will say or do the wrong things.

Socializing with people with impairment is no different from the regular socialization we do every day. They are still human beings with feelings, wants and dislikes brought in this world with a handicap and should be welcomed into society. If you are not familiar with these vulnerable people, you might say something offensive or do something wrong by offering assistance.

Read on and gain some insights on how to support, respect, and treat people despite their disability.

Volunteer in a Disability Support Group

If you are someone who enjoys looking after the welfare of vulnerable people to live independently as possible and reach their full potential, volunteer in one of the Disability Support Groups in your community.

These groups make regular rounds, visiting physically challenged individuals in the hospitals, CLHF homes, shelters for abandoned children, homes for the elderly, and many more.

There is no pay for the work you do, your compensation is the personal satisfaction that you are impacting a disabled person’s quality of life.

As a volunteer you are paired with a person with a disability, you will supervise most sport and recreation activities. You will encourage your partner to participate in activities as fully as possible and ensure the personal and safety needs are met.

The role of a disability support volunteer is wide-ranging, from assisting with the personal

needs of a participant to facilitating with activities and assisting in the meal preparation and facility maintenance.

The volunteer should see to it that his partner has no injury or will cause harm to others.

Interacting with People with Disabilities

When you interact with a person with a disability, speak directly to them not to their personal attendant, interpreter or companion. The body might not be reacting properly but their brains are working well. Here are some ways to relate to vulnerable people in case you meet them.

Put yourself in their shoes

it would be easier to understand how to interact if you imagine yourself having a disability. Talk to them casually as you would anyone else and act normally just like your usual routine.

Offer genuine help

You might be holding back giving assistance to a disabled person for fear of offending them. It is offensive indeed if you are assuming that someone cannot do the act because of the disability. However, few people would be offended by a genuine offer of help, some examples.

  • Always introduce yourself to a visually impaired person let them know when you are leaving. If they request for assistance offer your arm or elbow never push or grab the person. If there is a guide dog, don’t pet or distract it, the dog is always looking after the owner’s welfare, it is not a pet.
  • Ask a deaf or hard of hearing person how they want to communicate. Some may partially hear, some can lip read, and others prefer sign language or assistive technology.
  • Do not push, lean on, play or hold the person’s wheelchair. Try to talk at eye level with someone in a wheelchair.
  • Be patient with a person with a cognitive disability give them time to communicate and speak to the person in clear simple sentences.

Accept that people with disability have adjusted

Not for anything else, but people with impairment wants to prove that they are still useful and can do things on their own. Most can go on with their daily life with little help from others. It can be annoying to assume that they cannot do a lot, especially if you help in a childish voice, this will irritate them. Give your assistance with the assumption that the person can do the task at hand.

Practice Etiquette

Remember, that people with disabilities can do many things in different ways and achieve the same outcome without the help of people. There are ways which you can be of help and also ways you can hinder their goal practice these etiquettes to gain a smile from them.

Use the Golden Rule

Treat others in the same way that you would like to be treated. Treat people with disabilities as your equal don’t shy away or feel embarrassed to approach them, they are normal human beings who want to have friends and fun.

Always ask before giving assistance

If you are a knight in shining armor never give your assistance readily to an old damsel in distress. A person who is struggling may welcome help or might just want to be left alone in the struggle. Never help someone without asking. An example:

A woman in crutches was assisted by two old ladies to help her walk on an icy sidewalk. Without asking, they grabbed her threw her off balance and she came down crashing.

Do not stare

Avoid staring at people with disabilities it might give a different connotation just look at them as you would other people.

Think before you speak

Avoid using labels when you talk with a disabled person, they will be offended. Use people-first language such as:

Handicapped Person with impairment
Cripple Person with mobility issues
Deaf and dumb, deaf-mute Person who cannot hear and talk


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Written by Nat Sauteed

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