Relax. Don’t be embarrassed by using common expressions such as: I have got to run now; See you later, or Have you heard about… even if the person does not run, see or hear well, People with disabilities use these phrases all the time.
Everyone likes to be greeted by name. Introduce yourself to the disable person and speak to them using their name.
It is appropriate to shake hands. If the hands are limited in use, touch and acknowledge the introduction. Even if it is a prosthesis. Touch is important.
Often we have the desire to help a disabled person. Before you do anything for them, ask if they want you to assist and then listen to the instructions carefully.
Don’t make the origin or details of one’s disability the first topic of conversation. It is best not to ask personal questions until you become real friends.
Be considerate of the extra time it may take a person with a disability to get things done.
Speak directly to the person with a disability rather than to a companion or sign language interpreter who may be along.
Terms change over the years. Such as crippled; deaf and dumb; and wheelchair-bound are no longer accepted by people with disabilities. Many have negative associations. Instead say person with a disability; Mary is hard of hearing; Denise uses a wheelchair. this type of language focuses on the person first and their disability afterward.
Avoid excessive praise when people with disabilities accomplish normal tasks. These tasks do not require exaggerated compliments.
Don’t lean into a person’s wheelchair. It is an extension of their personal space.
When speaking with a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, sit down so that you will be eye level with them.
Don’t pet a guide dog while it is working. Always ask if you can pet them and don’t assume.
Don’t raise your voice when speaking to a hard of hearing person. Your body language speaks volumes.
When offering assistance to a visually impaired person, tell them your name and where you are standing. When walking let the person take your arm and then tell them when you are approaching inclines or turning right or left.
Don’t allow your fears of saying or doing the wrong thing prevent you from getting to know someone that has a disability. A “hello” works well.
If possible volunteer at community events and help in making them available. Become an advocate for your disabled friends.
Relax, and enjoy being a friend to the disabled by treating them kindly and respectfully. Eye contact, a simple smile and hello is a wonderful beginning.