Special Guest: Doug Melvin of Boise, Idaho
Expertise: Homeland Security Director
Honors: In January, 2007, named Commissioner of Public Safety for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games
Disability etiquette, living and working with people with disabilities, is an important part of respecting others in the community where you live. There are some basic guidelines that can make working with people with disabilities more enjoyable for everyone present, including you. With 38% of people with disabilities in the workplace, the timing is right to learn a few basic guidelines for disability etiquette.
Kelly Elliot of Louisville, Kentucky gives us some easy to follow rules for disability etiquette and Doug Melvin of Boise, Idaho, the Commissioner of Public Safety for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games, talks about working with people with disabilities.
Easy to Follow Disability Etiquette Guidelines by Kelly Elliot of Louisville, Kentucky
When you first meet or talk to someone with a disability, certain disability etiquette guidelines can help everyone feel more comfortable. When you talk with a person with a disability, speak directly to them, using solid eye contact. If a disabled person needs help understanding you, they- or the person accompanying them (if appropriate), will show you what to do. Exercise patience when you are following the rules of disability etiquette. It may take the person you are speaking with a little extra time to respond to you. And that’s ok! If you don’t understand what someone is saying to you, ask them to repeat it until you do understand, or give them a piece of paper and a pen to write it down. That’s not offensive; it’s happened to them before. The people that you live and work with that have disabilities want to communicate with you in a way that’s meaningful, so be honest if you’re having trouble understanding them.
Working with People with Disabilities by Doug Melvin of Boise, Idaho
There are some key points to remember when you live and work with people with disabilities:
- Don’t use handicapped parking spots. If you have a special situation, like a difficult pregnancy that makes it hard to walk, ask your employer if you can have a special parking spot designated for you.
- When you work with people with disabilities, some changes may need to be made in how and where you have meetings or conferences. Find out what can and can’t be done ahead of time to make the venue accessible, and let disabled coworkers know if there are any obstacles or potential issues with accessibility.
- Offering assistance to a person with a disability is one aspect of disability etiquette that many people have a hard time grasping. It’s fine to offer help; just do it quietly, politely and then wait for a response. Don’t jump in and start helping if your assistance isn’t needed or wanted.
- Be patient when you work with people with disabilities. It may take some people a little longer to answer a question or to finish a task. When you adjust your perspective, you open the gates for a productive employee to work without stress or interference, which suits everyone.
- Finally, don’t ask the people you live and work with about their disability. If they feel like talking about it, they’ll tell you without being prompted. You really shouldn’t refer to someone’s disability at all, unless absolutely necessary in the context of their safety and well-being.
We Thank Our Contributors:
- Kelly Elliot of Louisville, Kentucky
- Doug Melvin of Boise, Idaho, the Commissioner of Public Safety for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games