Learning how to interact with other people is an important part of the human condition, and it includes developing an understanding and appreciation of people who might be different to us. For some people interacting with a person with a disability is not necessarily simple due to a series of assumptions, and this can make interaction both awkward and difficult. In this article we take a look at a few key considerations you should take on board when it comes to interacting with people with a disability so that you can respect their feelings and develop a better understanding of them.
Don’t treat them differently
If you’re interested in finding a role with disability services in Melbourne, perhaps the most important thing you should know is that you should always be yourself. You’re not there to perform a role, but simply to help wherever possible – some people find this a bit difficult because they feel awkward around someone with a disability, but this can only work to increase the divide between the carer and the person with the disability. Greet people you’re caring for as you’d greet anyone else and talk to them as you would your friends. This can also include other behaviours that you don’t realise are happening, such as adjusting the volume of your voice or changing the tone unnecessarily. In doing this you make assumptions about a person and it doesn’t matter at all if they’re true or not – you can cause great offence by not confirming before you act on toxic assumptions. When it comes to offering help, you should not rush to do anything – although you are there to provide assistance, you offering to help unnecessarily can serve to disempower the person you’re trying to help, which is the last thing both of you should want.
Be aware and respectful of property and mobility aids
It’s also important to keep in mind that the devices people with disabilities use to help them navigate their own lives are not simply the objects we often see them as. Things like walking sticks, wheelchairs and mobility scooters resemble something much more important for people with disabilities due to these props and instruments being so vital to help them to more easily live their lives. In addition to properly handling and taking care of these objects, make sure to be conscious of things like leaning on any mobility aids or generally touching or handling them inappropriately. If you’re unsure about what to do or not do in any situation, it’s best to ask and follow through only if you get permission. Related to this is something many people reflexively forget – not handling guide dogs. Guide dogs should be treated as workers and as such, you shouldn’t interfere with their jobs. Resist the urge to pat the dog and refrain from generally interacting, but if you’re in a situation where it may be possible, still ask the owner first.
Treat people as your equal
It’s easy to see how some prior expectations might change how you treat someone, but remembering that they’re no different to you can help you view people with a disability in a much healthier and positive light – they’re sure to appreciate it.