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Disability Etiquette - Appropriate Language and Behaviour

Below is a set of guidelines on appropriate language and behaviour to use when interacting with disabled students. Please note that these guidelines are not exhaustive and that some language which is considered appropriate by one person may not be considered appropriate by another. If you are unsure about the language you are using, then ask the disabled person what they feel most comfortable with and continue to use this language while in their presence.

Avoid/Inappropriate Use/Appropriate
The disabled, the handicapped People with disabilities
Cripple, physically handicapped or wheelchair bound. These terms are patronizing. A person with a physical disability/impairment or wheelchair user
Spastic A person with cerebral palsy
Deaf and dumb A person with hearing and speech impairments
The Blind People who are B/blind, partially sighted, visually impaired
The Deaf People who are D/deaf, hearing impaired
Raising your voice or talking as if speaking to a child. Maintain your usual pitch, volume and rhythm when speaking
Interrupting a person with a speech impairment and trying to finish sentences for them. Listen patiently and ask for clarification if you have not understood.
Putting your hands near your mouth when communicating with someone who is Deaf or hearing-impaired. Ensure that they have a clear view of your face
Playing ‘guess who’ games with people who are blind or visually impaired Introduce yourself by name to a person who is blind
Looking down at a person in a wheelchair for a prolonged period Sit down and talk to them. This makes eye contact easier and means they are not constantly craning their neck to look up at you.
Speaking to a disabled person’s friend or support worker when your conversation is directed at the person with a disability. Speak directly to the disabled person

It is quite appropriate to continue using words such as see, look, walk, listen, when talking to people with various disabilities.