Our team at Vocational Solutions of Henderson County has been working with people with disabilities for many years, but we know not everyone has the same experience. We also know most non-disabled people have their hearts in the right place and genuinely want to help, but many aren’t sure how to do so effectively and politely. In this article, we’ll go over a few best practices for assisting those with disabilities. Please note that our team focuses on helping people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, so our advice will be focused on that population as well.
- Ask First – The first rule of assisting with disabilities is to always ask the person for permission before stepping in to help. You may think you are making life easier for the person by doing a task for them, but many people with disabilities find this kind of “help” frustrating and unwelcome. Respect the person’s dignity and independence by asking before you take action and respecting their given answer.
- Be Patient – Another guideline for assisting with disabilities is to be patient and respectful in your communication. Many people with cognitive or developmental disabilities have difficulty communicating, so give them time to respond and be prepared to listen carefully. Don’t try to rush through the interaction or assume you know what they’re trying to say. Instead, give the person time to communicate with you.
- Respect Personal Space – Many disabled people report incidents of non-disabled people touching or grabbing them without permission. When assisting with disabilities, you should respect the person’s space and bodily autonomy, keeping your hands to yourself. If the person uses any kind of mobility aid or assistive technology, such as a communication board or an augmentative & assistive communication device, don’t touch these tools without permission, either.