Monthly Archives: September 2010

Disability etiquette means respect

I have been working on some broader issues relating to disability lately, including respectful behaviour towards disabled people. Disability etiquette is not about being politically correct, just about good old fashioned respect and courtesy.

One of the golden rules of disability etiquette is that you should never make assumptions about what a person can and cannot do, or does or does not need. This rule can be applied in almost any situation. It applies as much to someone’s information needs as to their requirements in a meeting, or the way they carry out a particular task in a given situation.

Knowing something about particular groups of people may help, but you should still be wary of making decisions on behalf of disabled people. In a meeting a week or so ago a person assumed I wanted my information in a particular way. There were two options, but she made the decision for me about which option I could have. My friends watched with interest, and I suspect amusement, to see how I would respond. I smiled sweetly and asked politely for both options. That way I could decide for myself. Sadly I don’t think she got the point. Giving me the choice at the outset would have been the way to go.

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