Ways to Support People with Disabilities
- September 1, 2020
- Posted by Robert Giesbers
- Comments Off on Ways to Support People with Disabilities
If you’re reading this, chances are strong that either you or someone you know lives with a disability of some kind. While you may have come to R&J Mobility with the intent of purchasing, renting, or repairing mobility equipment or vehicles, there are ways in which you and the people around you can help make real change in the way in which society treats disabled people, especially in the workforce.
The self-esteem, performance, and job satisfaction of employees with disabilities are significantly affected by the attitudes of co-workers and peers. In fact, negative attitudes towards people with disabilities, in the workplace or in social circles, are some of the biggest obstacles for career advancement and general inclusion. However, it’s beneficial for companies to hire differently-abled individuals. Employing people with different abilities increases the diversity of a company, which in turn drives innovation and success.
So how can you and the people around you – as employers, peers, and friends – help to create a more inclusive society and workplace?
- Don’t make assumptions
Don’t assume people need help. You should always ask first, even if a task seems like it would be “easier” if you gave them your assistance. People with disabilities know better than anyone what their needs are and how best to meet them. And if they ask for help, make sure to ask for specifics on how you can help.
- Speak clearly and listen intently
If you work with someone who has cognitive issues (like a developmental disability), use clear sentences with simple words and concrete concepts. Try to match the pace and vocabulary of your speech to theirs. Unless you are told otherwise, remember that they can make their own decisions. Allow people with speech impairments to finish their own sentences.
- Speak directly to people
Make eye contact and speak to people directly, even if their personal care attendant or interpreter is with them. And if you will be speaking with a person in a wheelchair for an extended time, you should sit down so they don’t have to strain their neck to look up at you. Don’t lean over a person in a wheelchair!
- Personal space
Some people who use a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair, walker, or cane, see these tools as part of their personal space. It’s important not to touch, move, or lean on someone’s mobility aids not only out of respect but for safety reasons. And never start to push someone’s wheelchair without first asking their permission.
- Be flexible
As an employer or supervisor, it’s important to remember that many people have family members with disabilities that they may provide care or companionship for. Be flexible and understanding when allowing those people to fulfill those roles should they need time off. Remember that in some cases, it’s the law!
- Check accessibility
Whether you’re setting up a meeting, event, or even a social gathering, you should confirm in advanced that the venue or location is accessible and offer those details to participants beforehand. Check if there is anything you should do to prepare for the meeting or event to make sure everyone is able to attend and participate fully.
It’s ok if you make a mistake. What’s important is to remember to ask questions and take the person’s lead. Some of these tips can feel awkward at first, especially if you’re meeting someone new, but don’t let that stop you. While it’s common, and natural, to try to avoid awkward feelings, you may end up unintentionally trying to avoid interactions with people who have disabilities which can cause them to feel and be excluded. As with anything else, it gets easier with practice!
If you, yourself, are disabled, many of these things might hit home and you may feel like there is nothing you can do to encourage change. However, you can share this information with the people in your life, whether they are family, friends, or colleagues. Sometimes people just need to be made aware that their behavior needs to be adjusted and they are happy to comply.
R&J Mobility believes in the ability for all people to live their life without limitations. We are here for your mobility needs and are ready to answer all of your questions!