Super, now everyone can look up the missing chapter of Miss Manners - that is, how to deal with people with disabilities.
Top 10 tips
As devil rides me sometimes, I have tweaked these tips for you.
1. Do not make eye contact and avoid speaking directly to the person. Try to always address the persons companion as sign-language interpreter.
Hildegard Umbelstiltz is confined to a wheelchair. She says "it is always a relief to not having to deal with other people. As they are utterly clueless it is often a burden to having to behave towards them. If these people talk to my friend or partner I can relax and study their shoes or hand bags instead".
2. Never offer to shake hands when introduced. People with limited hand mobility or an artificial limb usually prefer to not shake hands.
Tribelio Orgenstadt is missing his right hand and forearm. "You don't know how clumsy other people can be" he confessed. "They try to shake your elbow!" - In fact, research has shown that not only do non-disabled people fear that disability is a transmitted disease, also fear of other people can be transmitted.
Due to these stressful encounters it is best to avoid the situation altogether. If possible, do not shake any body part of a disabled person. And if you can, avoid to say hello or goodbye to any disabled person as then the situation does not even occur.
3. Offer assistance but do not wait to act until the offer is accepted. Disabled people are complicated and often torn between different goals and so they don't know what they want themselves. So do not ask or listen for instructions. Instead, assume the person wants help, Assume that you know what kind of help the person needs. Also, it is safe to assume that someone doesnt have a disability if it isnt obvious.
"I never know how to react", area man Regis said, "since I have multiple sclerosis I was offered help numerous times and always hesitated". Instead, his neighbor Molly runs into Regis all the time. Mostly at the local supermarket. She said if it wasn't for her he'd probably still be there staring at other people who offered help. "You just have to decide for them", she said, "disabled people have a hard time already just being themselves".
4. Treat adults as children. For example, help people in wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.
It gives disabled people the feeling of being welcome members to society. Not fully welcome, of course, and a bit on the marginalized side, obviously - but still. Also it reminds them to not try to speak up while "healthy" adults are talking.
5. Listen attentively when conversing with someone who has a disability but never wait for them to finish their sentences. Pretend to understand and if ever possible, finish sentences for them.
"I have problems talking fast and also I limp" says Heather Metterstone who had a stroke seven years ago, leaving her with residual neurological damage. "It is always so hard to speak so fast and I am ever so happy for others to finish my sentences for me" she added. Once she was at an airport trying to ask whether they'd serve drinks on the plane. When she finally had walked up to the counter and started to ask "Excuse me, can I...?" the lady interrupted her asking back "...travel business class as you don't want the narrow seats? Yes sure let me check". Heather added "If I had spoken fast and not limped that would never have happened".
8. Place yourself at eye level when speaking with someone in a wheelchair or on crutches. You may be saving them from a neck ache.
Usually, people in wheelchairs have a hard time seeing and recognizing folks around them as "human" simply because these - seen from their viewpoint - lack faces. Either you should walk bent, wear a mask around your knee or, if ever possible, sit down to talk to them.
9. Never worry about peoole with hearing disabilities. Talk to them as if they are regular folks. Blur words together, mumble, use jargon and go about your things the usual way. If it is important, they will alert you to it. Then, repeat what you said at the top of your lungs. That way, everyone else also will realize how far out of the line of your duty you go to accomodate for the other person.
Hintz Kundelberg, who is profoundly deaf, says "I just wait until I hear their voice scream - then I know they mean it". He said that he can get by very well by ignoring the rest of the daily banter.
10. Be careful. Do not use "can you lend me a hand" for an arm amputee, "I was just pulling your leg" for a leg amputee", "I see what you mean" to a blind person or "I am listening" to a person that cannot speak. It is better to avoid these sentences, or, if ever possible, any sentence that can be misunderstood, in conjunction with people with disabilities.
Sorter from the school for the blind giggles when asked whether its OK to say See you later to a blind person. I see things, she said. I may see them differently than you do, but I see them. She said political correctness has become overdone, including debate over whether its more polite to call someone blind or visually impaired. People get so unsure and worried, What if I do something wrong? They wont talk to you at all, she said.
Alright, this was satirical. Or, was it.