Welcome to Dyersburg State Community College!

Disability Etiquette

Some people experience an uneasiness around people who use wheelchairs, braces, dark glasses, or have uncoordinated motions or other types of obvious disabilities.  This dis-ease is often manifested by staying at a distance and avoiding looking directly at them.  The following suggestions, based on socially acceptable disability etiquette, are offered to help you feel more comfortable in your interactions with students with disabilities.

  • Stand as close to a person with a disability as you would in a similar situation with a person without a disability.
  • If the situation is one in which you would normally shake hands, extend your hand to one with a disability even if he or she is blind or has a manual impairment.  Every person appreciates the courtesy of customary social and business behavior.
  • Maintain eye contact as you talk with a person.  Even one who is blind can sense whether you are looking in his or her direction as you speak.
  • When engaged in an extended conversation with a wheelchair user, try to sit, kneel, or squat so that you are at eye level with the person.
  • Persons who use wheelchairs, crutches, canes, or other adaptive equipment consider these items as a part of their body space.  It is inappropriate to lean against, hang on or move these aids without asking permission.
  • Do not touch or pat a wheelchair user on the head.  If the situation is appropriate for physical contact, a touch on the hand or arm is preferred.
  • Offer assistance before providing it.  This approach gives people with disabilities the option to accept assistance and keeps them in charge of decisions that affect their personal independence.
  • If a person needs assistance and you are unsure about the best way to provide help, ask questions about the person’s specific needs and how he or she prefers that you perform the task.
  • When guiding persons who are blind, do not lead, push, or pull.  Offer them your arm so they can lightly hold it above the elbow as they walk a halfstep behind you.  It may be helpful to announce any unusual barriers as you approach them.
  • Speak directly to a person with a disability instead of trying to talk through another person.  The same holds true when communicating through an interpreter with one who is deaf.  Look at and directly address the person who is deaf as the interpreter translates your words into sign language.
  • When speaking to persons with disabilities, use a normal tone of voice and a normal rate of speech.
  • It is OK to use words like “look” and “see” in conversation with people who are blind or to use words like “walk” or “run” with wheelchair users.