There are people with disabilities all around us, whether it is a visible or non-visible disability, we are bound to know a person with disability in the workplace, in school or know a family member with disability. In fact, around 1 in 6 Australians have a disability, accounting for 4.4 million Australians.
There are numerous ways you can assist individuals with disabilities, and help them feel accepted and welcomed in the community. Here are some general guidelines for assisting somebody with a disability.
1. Always ask before helping
People with disabilities have varied degrees of independence. Never assume that a person with a disability needs your immediate help. If someone appears to be in need, ask before helping them immediately, and allow the person to either accept the offer or to kindly decline. If they accept your offer, ask for specific instructions on how you can best help.
2. Never make assumptions about someone’s disability
Everyone is unique, and may act, feel, or think differently than you do on occasion, but it is important to treat everyone with the same approach and respect. There are also a large number of people who have non-visible disabilities, so do not make assumptions before knowing the full story.
3. Respect and understand their need for privacy
People with disabilities have a right to privacy. They are not compelled to disclose their disability to you. If someone tells you about their disability, don’t assume that they are okay with you informing other people about it. Before discussing the disability, always get permission.
4. Speak clearly and listen
If you have a loved one or coworker who has a mental or developmental condition, use simple terms whenever possible. Don’t use jargon; instead, convey your point of view in simple language and let them make their own choices. When interacting with people who have speech disabilities, exercise control and compassion as they take time to finish their sentences. Try not to disrupt the flow of their speech by attempting to finish their sentences for them.
5. Make adjustments
If you are awaiting a visitor with a disability at your home or office, make a few basic adjustments to make them feel more at ease. Place required items in restrooms and bedrooms within their reach, and offer to assist with anything on shelves or cupboards. Also, respect their daily routine, and if there is a sudden shift in their daily activities, assist them in adjusting.
6. Participate in positive discussions
Discuss positive things with them such as work, family, music, or pleasant recollections from the past. This gives people with disabilities a sense of belonging whilst also building up their morale. There is no need to only discuss someone’s disability.
7. Don’t stare
Seeing a wheelchair amongst the crowd may draw your attention, but it is important to not stare for too long, as it can make someone feel uncomfortable. Most of the time, they can see you staring too!
8. Promote social inclusion
It is easy for someone to feel left out. Make sure to give extra support and words of encouragement to those that may feel potentially outside of their comfort zone.
9. Speak directly to people
Even if someone has an interpreter, or has a support worker aiding them, try to address both the person and the support worker by maintaining eye contact with both of them, and if someone is in a wheelchair, kneel down so the person in the wheelchair does not feel uncomfortable from looking up for too long.
10. Respect personal space
Respect personal boundaries, and allow personal space as you would with everyone. For example, do not start pushing someone’s wheelchair without asking them first, and do not touch someone’s mobility aids, as it can be unsafe. Always ask for permission before you touch equipment.
Have more questions?
At Personalised Support Services (PSS), we are driven to help you lead a happier and more independent life. So whether you are looking for a helping hand around the house or building your independence, our friendly team is ready to support you every step of the way.