Disability Awareness Q & A

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Following on from our blog last week we thought we’d share the top 12 Q&A’s we come across in our Disability Awareness Training.

1. Do I shake hands? Absolutely. Offer your hand in the same way you would to anyone and then confidently shake whatever is offered to you, whether it’s an artificial limb or a partial hand. If they are unable to raise either hand you might gently touch their arm as a friendly greeting.

2. How do I refer to their disability? Focus on the individual rather than their disability. They are first and foremost a person and the disability is something they have. Whilst you might be trying to show empathy in describing someone as ‘suffering from’ or ‘confined to’, it can sound negative and is best avoided. 

3. What if I need to ask them about how their disability would affect their role at work?  The best way to approach this is to ask them how they would go about performing the functions of the job. It is a question you would need to ask everyone you interviewed able-bodied or not! An employer is expected to make reasonable adjustments to enable someone with a disability do the job and it would be acceptable to ask in an interview what sort of adjustments they might need. Government funding is available to advise and financially support adjustments in the workplace.

4. Should I offer to help? Of course, always offer to help but wait until the offer is accepted and then follow their instructions as to what kind of help they need.

5. What do I do if I see someone struggling with their wheelchair? Offer to help but never touch, move or play with someone’s wheelchair (or any assistive equipment) without their permission. It is part of the space that belongs to that person.

6. How do I talk to a deaf person? Don’t shout…it distorts sound produced through a hearing aid and makes lip reading really hard. DO Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and naturally so they have the opportunity to lip read if they are able.

7. Where do I look if I’m talking to a blind person? Look directly at the person you are talking to, even if they have someone with them. Don’t assume they can’t see anything. Always introduce yourself and tell them who else is in the room, it’s fine to ask if they need help. They may ask you to turn the lights on, guide them somewhere or describe where things are in the room so they can find their own way around.

8. How do I talk to someone in a wheelchair? If you’re talking for more than a few minutes it’s polite to get down to their eye level, either squat or pull up a chair.

9. What if I’m trying to help but it comes across as discrimination? If you treat a disabled person the same as anyone else this should not happen but if you’re unsure look up the law.

10. Is it ok to say someone is handicapped? This is no longer considered politically correct as it has such negative connotations. It implies that they are at a disadvantage. Stick to referring directly to the person (as you would with an able-bodied person), and if it’s relevant, the disability that they have.

11. What if an employee who is disabled does something wrong? All employees should be treated fairly and receive constructive feedback when it’s needed.  Your expectations should be the same and as long as the right support is in place for the person with a disability there is no reason why you shouldn’t have exactly the same expectations of them. An employee with a disability will want to do just as good a job and have access to just as challenging projects and promotions as an employee without a disability.

12. I’m just so worried that I might say something wrong and offend someone! Relax! There is no need to get bogged down with being so politically correct or super sensitive to the right and wrong that you get your words in a muddle. If you say something you realise isn’t right, apologise and carry on, or ask the person whom you are talking to what they would prefer you said.  Don’t be patronizing, use your normal voice and speak in your usual way!

If you relate to any of these questions it could be that you would benefit from some disability awareness training. You can get advice from www.gov.uk or contact Cordell Health for workplace training days.

Got any questions you’d like to ask about disability etiquette or concerns about interviewing or employing someone with a disability? Let us know…we’d be happy to share some more advice.