Understanding Disabilities


Providing Accessible Services for People with Disabilities 


When working with people with disabilities, or interacting with people with disabilities in your daily life, it is important that you are able to communicate, assist and address in a way that respects their dignity and independence. Below are some suggestions for how you can ensure the delivery of accessible and inclusive services and support. 

General information that you need to know when working, speaking or supporting an individual with a disability: 
  • ‘DO NOT’ use words and phrases such as: 
    • “What is wrong with you?” 
    • “Disabled” or “handicapped” when referring to accommodations for people with disabilities. 
    • Use the term ‘disabled person’. 
  • ‘DO’ use words and phrases that show respect for the dignity of people with disabilities. 
    • You will rarely have to refer to the person’s disability or ask ‘what is wrong with you’ when you are speaking with them – instead, it is better to ask them ‘What can I do to assist you?”. 
    • When talking about accommodations for people with disabilities, use the term accessible. 
    • Use person first language such as – Person with a disability. 
  • “DO NOT” make assumptions about the help people need: 
    • Do not attempt to assist someone without first asking their permission.
    • For people using mobility devices: do not attempt to move the person or their devices without permission or interfere with their movement unless asked to do so. 
    • Do not attempt to lead a person who is blind and has low vision before asking if your assistance is needed. 
    • Do not attempt to touch a person with autism or other mental health issues. 
  • “DO” offer your assistance (once permission is obtained) in the ways listed below: 
    •  Ask them if they need support aids that would make them more comfortable. 
    • Ensure that a person’s wheelchair, scooter, walker, or cane is available to them at all times. 
    • When speaking to a person with visual impairment, clearly state who you are as you approach them, give verbal cues, descriptive directions and over them your arm to guide them if they wish. 
    • When speaking to a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, always ask the person how they would prefer to communicate, and get the persons attention through visual cues before speaking to them. Speak clearly at a normal pace, and offer a paper and pencil for written communication. 
    • When working with a person that has an intellectual or developmental disability provide information gradually and clearly, and adjust your method of communication if necessary. 
    • Be patient and supportive 
    • Understand that every person and situation is unique.


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