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Disabled individuals are people first; like all people, they want to be accepted and understood. They want others to know that their disability is not all that they are. It is an inconvenience, but a disability need not be a handicap unless the environment they live/work in handicaps them with physical and/or attitudinal barriers.

When you meet a hearing impaired person:

  • Speak clearly and distinctly, but don't exaggerate. Use normal speed unless asked to slow down.
  • Provide a clear view of your mouth. Waving your hands or holding something in front of your lips, thus hiding them, makes lip reading impossible. Don't chew gum.
  • Use a normal tone unless you are asked to raise your voice. Shouting will be of no help.
  • Speak directly to the person, instead of from the side or back of the person.
  • Speak expressively. Because deaf persons cannot hear subtle changes in tone, which may indicate sarcasm or seriousness, many rely on your facial expressions, gestures, or body language to understand you.
  • If you are having trouble understanding a deaf person's speech, feel free to ask him/her to repeat. If that doesn't work use paper and pen.
  • If a deaf person is with an interpreter, speak directly to the deaf person - not the interpreter.
  • If you'll be spending a considerable amount of time with the deaf person, learn sign language, either by taking a class or from the deaf person.

When you meet a mobility impaired person:

  • Offer help but wait until it is accepted before giving it.
  • Accept the fact that a disability exists. Not acknowledging a disability is simlar to ignoring someone's sex or height. But to ask questions regarding the disability would be inappropriate until a closer relationship develops in which personal questions are more naturally asked.
  • Talk directly to a disabled person, not to someone accompanying him/her.
  • Don't park your car in a parking space which is designated for use by disabled persons. These places are reserved out of necessity, not convenience.
  • Don't use automatic doors reserved for disabled persons. Each time you use the door, that's one less time it will operate for someone who needs it.
  • Treat a disabled person as a healthy person. Because an individual has a functional limitation does not mean the individual is sick.
  • Keep in mind that disabled persons have the same activities of daily living as you do. Many persons with disabilities find it almost impossible to get a cab to stop for them or have a clerk wait on them in stores.  Remember that disabled persons are customers and patrons, and deserve equal attention when shopping, dining, or traveling.

When you meet a visually impaired person:

  • It is appropriate to offer help; just don't be surprised if the individual would rather do it him/herself.
  • If you are helping and aren't sure what to do, ask.
  • A gentle touch on the elbow will indicate to a visually impaired person that you are speaking to him/her.
  • Blind is not deaf; don't shout. Nor is blind dumb; if you have a question for the visually impaired person, ask him/her, not the companion.
  • If you are walking with a blind person, let him/her take your arm.
  • Never pet a guide dog, except during "off duty" hours. Even then, you should ask the owner first.
  • Don't worry about substituting words for "see," "look," or even "blind." Don't avoid them where these words fit.  You can talk about blindness itself when you both feel comfortable.
  • When you see a blind person you know, mention your name. It is difficult to recognize voices unless you have a very distinct one.
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