Greetings, in my last post, I described two steps we can take to improve our communication effectiveness with people who have a disability: (1) work to dispel the “myths” that many of us have about persons with disabilities; and (2) when interacting with persons with disabilities, the most important thing to do is to be yourself. Here are 3 additional actions that will improve your communication effectiveness:
1. Never treat a person with a disability like a child or a “cripple”. Don’t hover over them as if you are waiting for something to happen (e.g., for the person to fall). Most people will find this very annoying, and it is usually unnecessary. While this sounds obvious, many of us unconsciously behave in a patronizing manner out of a sincere desire to be helpful and supportive. While our intentions may be honorable, we must be aware of how our behaviors may be perceived by a person with a disability.
2. When it appears that a physically challenged person needs help, offer your assistance but don’t insist. Simply ask, “How can I help?” The person will appreciate your willingness to assist, but allow him or her to make independent decisions. If the person requests your assistance, do what you can to help.
3. If a person with a physical disability does fall, don’t panic. Wait for a cue from the person (unless he/she is seriously injured, in which case you must act). He or she will often be capable of getting up without assistance and may prefer to do so. Once again, let the person make an independent decision about how (if at all) you may assist.
NEXT POST – December 22, 2008
How to Communicate When Your Values are Different: Part 1