Disability Etiquette

Many people do not know what to say or how to act when they meet someone with a disability. Treat someone with a disability as you would like to be treated and you can't go wrong. Here is a brief list of tips to help in communicating with someone with a disability.

  • When talking with a person with a disability, speak directly to that person rather than through a companion or sign language interpreter. Be patient if someone uses a device in order to communicate. Never pretend to understand someone, simply ask questions if you do not understand and they will correct it if necessary.
  • To get the attention of person who is deaf, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly, and expressively to determine if the person can read your lips.
  • When meeting a person who is visually impaired, always identify yourself and others who may be with you.
  • Leaning on or hanging on to a person's wheelchair is an invasion of personal space and property.
  • Place yourself at eye level with anyone who uses a wheelchair or crutches or who has physical limitations.
  • If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen or ask for instructions. The worst they can do is say "No, thank you."
  • When writing or need proper language, avoid all negative connotations or attitudes. Make reference to the person or persons first and then the disability, i.e., "a person with a disability" rather than "disabled person".
  • When writing or speaking about people with disabilities, it is important to put the person first. Group designations such as "the blind" or "the retarded" are inappropriate because they do not reflect the individuality, equality or dignity of people with disabilities. Below is a listing of appropriate phrases and descriptions. Always remember: Positive language empowers.
    • Physically disabled
    • Deaf or hard of hearing person
    • Person in a wheelchair/person who uses a wheelchair
    • Developmentally disabled, person with a cognitive/intellectual disability
    • Birth anomaly, congenital disability
  • Most importantly, relax and just be yourself. Remember that they are people first and disabled second.

Disability Etiquette Workshops

Is your group/organization doing everything to effectively engage with the community? Request an interactive disability etiquette workshop today.

Workshops will cover topics such as,

  • Definition of disability
  • Myths and Facts about disability
  • Welcoming language and etiquette
  • Making environment more accessible
  • Disability Rights

For more information about our Etiquette Workshops, please email us at disabilities@worcesterma.gov or call us at 508-799-8486.

Contact Information

Office on Disabilities
City Hall Room 101
455 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01608

Accessible via WRTA Bus Line. View Schedules

Phone: 508-799-8486
Fax: 508-799-1208
Email Us

Office Hours:
Monday - Friday
8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

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508-929-1300
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