At Van Products, we help individuals and families with physical disabilities by offering a wide range of new and used wheelchair vans as well as mobility products. However, not all disabilities are physical or visible.
The following are some tips to help raise awareness about disabilities as well as to help offer insight into better disability etiquette.
Tips for Practicing Better Disability Etiquette
#1 – Remember that not all disabilities are visible.
Examples of non-visible disabilities include: heart disease, asthma, and depression.
#2 – Keep in mind that some people may only have ‘temporary’ disabilities.
Not all physical disabilities that you come across may be permanent. In fact, some people may only have temporary disabilities which are often just as limiting as permanent disabilities.
#3 – Not everyone with a disability wants to talk about it.
Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Remember that not everyone who has a disability wishes to discuss it. So, while you may be tempted to know what happened that led that person to their disability or what it’s like for them to live with a disability – refrain from asking personal questions. Rather, wait until you get to know the individual better, or wait until he/she offers personal information.
#4 – Don’t touch service animals unless invited to do so.
While many of us love dogs, it is inappropriate to reach out to someone’s service animal uninvited. While a service animal may be “cute” and you may want to pet or play with it, remember that this animal is “at work”.
#5 – Know how to interact with wheelchair users.
There are several tips for interacting better with people who are using wheelchairs. Some of these include:
- Position yourself at the same eye level. If you are engaged in a lengthy conversation with a wheelchair user, sit down. This will make it easier for both of you to have a conversation.
- Do not touch or lean on someone’s wheelchair. Respect the person’s personal space just as you’d want someone to respect yours.
- Ask first before offering assistance. Remember that wheelchair users are independent people who don’t always need or require help. Before you jump in to help someone in a wheelchair, always ask first. This helps respect that person’s dignity as well.
- Respect handicap spaces. Handicap spaces are there for a reason. Avoid pulling into handicap spots – even if you’re only using them temporarily to wait for someone. By sitting in a handicap space, you could be causing a potential wheelchair user to have to find parking elsewhere.
- Talk to the person. If you see a wheelchair user with a companion, and you are engaged in conversation with the wheelchair user – speak to the person, not the companion as it may come across as disrespectful.
The following video highlights some other helpful tips when interacting with people who have disabilities.