Tips on disability etiquette 

Disability Etiquette is a set of guidelines to assist your interaction with people with disability when:

  • Meeting them for the first time
  • Writing about them
  • Providing assistance
  • Simply enjoying their company.

Of course you should show courtesy to everyone you meet, but some additional considerations will make your meeting with a person with disability more comfortable. Remember that everyone is different and will have individual preferences. It’s a good idea to ask the person what works for them and respect their wishes.

Here are some tips  compiled by the Australian Network of Disability from their Disability Etiquette Guide:

  • Avoid asking personal questions about someone’s disability.
  • Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person to do or say something.
  • Be polite and patient when offering assistance, and wait until your offer is accepted. Listen or ask for specific instructions. Be prepared for your offer to be refused.
  • Relax. Anyone can make mistakes. Offer an apology if you feel you’ve caused embarrassment.  Keep a sense of humour and be willing to communicate.
  • Use a normal tone of voice when welcoming a person with disability. Do not raise your voice unless you are asked to.
  • Shake hands even if the person has limited hand use or wears an artificial limb. A left-hand shake is acceptable. If the person cannot shake hands, acknowledge them with a smile and a spoken greeting.
  • When planning a meeting or other event, think about specific accommodations a person with disability might need. If a barrier cannot be avoided, let the person know ahead of time.
  • Look and speak directly to the person with disability, not just to the people accompanying them, including interpreters.
  • Don’t patronise or talk down to people with disability. Treat people with respect and dignity.
  • Be patient and give your undivided attention, especially with someone who speaks slowly or with great effort.
  • Never pretend to understand what a person is saying if you don’t. Ask the person to repeat or rephrase, or offer them a pen and paper.
  • If requested to by the individual, offer your elbow or shoulder to a person who is blind or has low vision, to guide rather than propel them.
  • It is okay to use common expressions like “see you soon” or “I’d better be running along”.