Speaking to people with disabilities
When you speak to a person with a disability, remember that he or she is a person first who also happens to have a disability. If you need information about the disability, don’t hesitate to ask the person about it directly.
Ask if assistance is needed rather than assuming it is. Then follow the instructions of the individual to avoid possible injury to the person or yourself.
Maintain eye contact and talk to the person even if he or she is using an interpreter.
When speaking with a person who has speech impairment or uses an augmentative communication system, be patient and give the person time to respond to your question.
Don’t try to finish a sentence for the person. If you don’t understand what the individual has said, say so, and ask him or her to repeat the statement or say it another way.
Use a normal tone of voice. Speaking loudly can cause pain for some people.
Do not lean on a person’s wheelchair or distract a working animal. Don’t “play” with assistive equipment.
Don’t hesitate to use everyday expressions. It’s fine to say “see you later” to a person who is visually impaired or “let’s take a walk” to a person using a wheelchair.
Choose words with dignity
All people want to be accepted in their communities as equals with other New Hampshire residents. What you write and say can enhance the dignity of people with disabilities and can promote positive attitudes about their abilities.
Let your descriptive words emphasize a person’s worth and abilities, not the challenges he or she experiences. Refer to the person rather than the disability. The phrase “people with disabilities” is preferred, for instance, over “the disabled.”
Equality is everyone’s civil right and using appropriate language is common courtesy.
— New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities