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Who Are People with Disabilities?

Relating to People with Disabilities

Direct Assistance for People with Disabilities

Michigan Disability Resources

National Disability Resources


People with Disabilities


The following books and pamphlets provide helpful information on this subject:

DISABILITY ETIQUETTE: This excellent booklet, replete with illustrations, is for anyone wanting to interact and communicate more effectively with people with disabilities. Numerous physical, mental, hidden and cognitive disabilities as well as other disabilities are addressed. The booklet features an access resource list, which includes a listing of resources for the disabilities discussed. English and Spanish versions are available. Call (800) 444-0120 to order. The entire booklet can also be accessed by visiting http://www.unitedspinal.org/pages.php?catid=7&pageid=472

BEING SENSITIVE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: This excellent pictorial guide, a Scriptographic booklet, puts people with disabilities first. It advocates focusing on a person's abilities; offers suggestions on using appropriate language and assisting people with impairments. To order, call (800) 628-7733 or write Channing L. Bete Co., Inc., 200 State Road, South Deerfield, MA 01373 asking for item number 49361D-11-98. If using the Internet, visit http://store.channing-bete.com/onlinestore/storeitem.html?vid=20050104004&iid=163482

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: This excellent pictorial guide, another Scriptographic product, raises awareness of the need for productive and independent living among the more than 54 million people with disabilities. It shows how improved conditions and changed attitudes toward people with disabilities can be realized via support of special programs and legislation. To order, call (800) 628-7733 or write Channing L. Bete Co., Inc., 200 State Road, South Deerfield, MA 01373 asking for booklet number 16683H-1-93. If using the Internet, visit http://store.channing-bete.com/onlinestore/storeitem.html?vid=20050104004&iid=162629

GUIDELINES FOR REPORTING AND WRITING ABOUT PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: This booklet explains preferred terminology and offers suggestions for appropriate ways to describe people with disabilities. It reflects input from over 100 national disability organizations and has been reviewed and endorsed by media and disability experts throughout the country. To order, call (785) 864-4095 (TDD is 785-864-0706) or e-mail rtcil@ku.edu or use www.rtcil.org.

The Ten Commandments of Communicating with People with Disabilities

I. Speak directly rather than through a companion or sign language interpreter who may be present.

II. Offer to shake hands when introduced. People with limited hand use or an artificial limb can usually shake hands and offering the left hand is an acceptable greeting.

III. Always identify yourself and others who may be with you when meeting someone with a visual disability. When conversing in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking.

a. When dining with a friend who as a visual disability, ask if you can describe what is on his or her plate.

IV. If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen or ask for instructions.

V. Treat adults as adults. Address people with disabilities by their first names only when extending that same familiarity to all others. Never patronize people in wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.

VI. Do not lean against or hang on someone's wheelchair. Bear in mind that people with disabilities treat their chairs as extensions of their bodies.

a. And so do people with guide dogs and help dogs. Never distract a work animal from their job without the owner's permission.

VII. Place yourself at eye level when speaking with someone in a wheelchair or on crutches.

VIII. Tap a person who has a hearing disability on the shoulder or wave your hand to get his or her attention. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly , and expressively to establish if the person can read your lips. If so, try to face the light source and keep hands, cigarettes and food away from your mouth when speaking.

a. If a person is wearing a hearing aid, don't assume that they have the ability to discriminate your speaking voice. b. Never shout at a person. Just speak in a normal tone of voice.

IX. Relax. Don't be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions such as "see you later" or "Did you hear about this?" that seem to relate to a person's disability.

Disability Thoughts

In recent years a new vocabulary has emerged regarding people with disabilities; shut-ins are now referred to as home bound, we now speak of being visually impaired instead of blind, or hearing impaired instead of being deaf, on it goes…

  1. The point is regardless of how we are labeled or classified we are more than numbers to be recorded, we are individuals with dreams and aspirations!
  2. Disability does not discriminate by age, race, color, or creed! Our disabilities vary as do our faces.
  3. Individually, we are still social creatures! Like you, we want to be part of society. We desire to feel wanted, and needed, to enjoy life, the same as you.
  4. As persons we desire respect rather than pity! Encouragement in place of sympathy. Love and acceptance will help us avoid the valley of depression.
  5. We want to learn new skills within our capabilities, to discover the potential that is within us.
  6. We are people with real feelings, like you we sometimes get hurt and bruised. Please don't just brush us aside.
  7. Sometimes we are tempted to give up, knowing you believe in us, gives us courage to go on to try again.
  8. Sometimes we are tempted to give up: knowing you believe in us gives us courage to go on to try again.
  9. As individuals we desire friendship. We also have spiritual needs, invite us to your church. As we worship and fellowship together, all our lives will be enriched.
  10. Some of us are your homebound neighbors, loneliness is an enemy.
  11. Our names are legion. We live in your communities, travel your streets and sidewalks, shop in your stores, eat in your restaurants. We attend your community events, and institutions of learning. We are both vocal and voiceless. Someday you could be one of us.

The Courtesy Rules of Blindness

When you meet me, don't be ill at ease. It will help us both if you remember these simple points of courtesy:

1. I'm an ordinary person, just blind. You don't need to raise your voice or address me as I were a child. Don't ask my spouse what I want -- "Cream in the coffee?" -- ask me.

2. I may use a long white cane or guide dog to walk independently; or I may ask to take your arm. Let me decide, and please don't grab my arm; let me take yours. I'll keep a half-step behind to anticipate curbs and steps.

3. I want to know who's in the room with me. Speak when you enter. Introduce me to the others. Include children, and tell me if there's a cat or a dog. Guide my hand to a chair.

4. The door to a room, a cabinet, or a car, left partially open, is a hazard to me.

5. At dinner I will not have trouble with ordinary table skills.

6. Don't avoid words like "see." I use them too. I'm always glad to see you.

7. I don't want pity. But don't talk about the "wonderful compensations" of blindness. My sense of smell, touch, or hearing did not improve when I became blind. I rely on them more, and therefore may get more information through those senses than you do -- that's all.

8. If I'm your house guest, show me the bathroom, closet, dresser, window -- the light switch too. I like to know whether the lights are on.

9. I'll discuss blindness with you if you're curious, but it's an old story to me. I have as many other interests as you do.

10.Don't think of me as just a blind person. I'm a person who happens to be blind.

Adapted from the National Federation of the Blind; 1800 Johnson St.; Baltimore, MD 21230, (410-659-9314),

National Federation of the Blind. www.nfb.org 1-800-686-0550 National Federation of the Blind - Michigan. www.nfbmi.org



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Disability Awareness Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan
The Rev. Chuck Swinehart chswinehart@gmail.com


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