Friday, April 30, 2010

Taboo Words and Phrases for Disabled Persons

The National Easter Seal Society advises us to eliminate certain words and phrases from our vocabulary and to replace them with positive, nonjudgmental terms:
  • Eliminate. Victim, cripple, afflicted with or by, and invalid—which connotes “not valid.”
  • Replace with. The person with a disability or, more specifically, the person with … or the person who has ….
  • Don’t say. Unfortunate, pitiful, poor, dumb (as in mute), deformed, blind as a bat. These terms are stereotypical, judgmental, and downright vulgar.
  • Say: Uses a wheelchair instead of wheelchair bound or confined to a wheelchair. Employed in the home is better than homebound employment, when referring to people who must work at home.

What Should You Talk About with a Disabled Person?

People who have disabilities have families, pets, jobs, hobbies, cultural interests, or sports that they participate in. Get to know about them and their interests the same way you would with anyone else, by making conversation. You may be surprised at the range of interests and activities. Focus on who the person is and not the disability.
However, the subject of the disability is not taboo. If it comes up naturally, talk about it:
  • The meeting is at four o’clock. Do you need me to come by for you, or will you get there on your own?
  • I’ll meet you in the auditorium. There’s an accessible entrance to the left of the main entrance.
However, when talking to someone with a disability, avoid the term handicapped. Use the word disabled and save handicap for golf outings. In addition, say, “the person with the disability,” rather than “the disabled person.”
Say, “the person who has epilepsy,” rather than “the epileptic.” By doing so, you
avoid defining the person as the condition. This practice is not only more considerate
but also more accurate

Ten tips for dealing with disabled persons

Here are 10 practical tips that will help you avoid feeling socially disabled when dealing with the disabled:
  1. If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Listen for information about what form the assistance should take.
  2. Speak directly to the disabled person, not through a third party. This tip is particularly important when addressing a hearing-impaired person and someone else is “signing” for him.
  3. Always offer to shake hands.
  4. Identify yourself and others to a visually impaired person. Always let them know when you are leaving the room.
  5. Treat adults like adults. Don’t use a person’s first name until someone asks you to. Don’t pat. Don’t patronize.
  6. Don’t shout.Don’t touch, lean on, or move a wheelchair without permission. Treat the chair as part of the person occupying it.
  7. Don’t distract a working seeing-eye dog.
  8. When conversing with a person with a speech impediment, listen carefully and never pretend to understand. If in doubt, ask questions. Be patient. Don’t interrupt or inject comments during pauses. Don’t try to fill in a word for someone with a stutter. Don’t raise your voice. Louder is not better.
  9. Don’t fret about phrases. Speak as you would normally and don’t worry about using terms such as running around (to someone in a wheelchair) or listen to that or see you later.