Disability Etiquette

Disability is a natural experience of life.  At some point we will experience a disability with oneself or someone we love.  With that in mind, remember the golden rule and always try to treat and speak to others in the same manner you would want to be treated.

Don’t Judge

Do you like being told what you can or cannot do?  Have you ever been labeled unfairly?  People with disabilities experience this regularly.  Don’t assume a person with a disability cannot do the same activities or tasks that others can do.  They just might have to do them differently. Give them a chance to try or simply ask them.

Visible vs. Invisible

Just because people don’t have a disability you can see doesn’t mean they aren’t disabled.  For example, in my “I am disABLED” story that I wrote a few months ago on this blog, I shared my story of Usher’s Syndrome.  When people notice I wear hearing aids they will automatically think I am hard of hearing, but what they don’t know unless I share it with them, is that I also have night blindness.  Overall, most people don’t view me as having a disability because they know me as a person and completely forget that I have Usher’s Syndrome.  Remember, just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist!


There is always a small amount of fear or nervousness anytime we experience something new such as interacting with someone who has a disability.  Even people with disabilities may experience the same fears when meeting other people with different disabilities.  When interacting with someone with a disability it is important to relax.  People with disabilities use the same expressions and phrases such as “take a walk” or “see you later.”  Don’t avoid talking to them because you fear saying the wrong thing, using the wrong terms or offending the person you are talking to.  It is also important to show respect and to talk to the person with the disability rather than talking about them to the person they are with.

Disability vs. Handicapped

There is a distinction between the words “disability” and “handicapped.”  Disability is a condition caused by an accident, trauma, genetics or disease, which may limit a person’s mobility, hearing, vision, speech or mental function.  Handicap is a physical or attitudinal constraint that is imposed upon a person, regardless of whether that person has a disability.  Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines handicap as to “put at a disadvantage.”

Additional Etiquette Tips

To learn more about terminology and disability etiquette please refer to the Your Words Our Image poster and this article with more detailed information.

Written by Lara’s Sister, Beth Combes

To read more of Beth’s story, click here


Filed under Getting Real, Life, People, Relationships

4 responses to “Disability Etiquette

  1. Gwen Mickle

    Very well written Beth. Good advise.

  2. Thank you so much Beth for taking the time and writing this article!

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