Communicating Effectively With People Who Have a Disability

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In North American Society, we have made progress in breaking down barriers in employment, education, and accessibility, but communication and interaction with people with disabilities still needs attention. Many nondisabled people feel anxious in the presence of someone with a disability, so they say nothing and avoid contact. In this publication you will find suggestions that will help educate people about communicating with people with disabilities. It provides a variety of helpful suggestions for communication, broken into groups based on disability such as "Tips for Communicating with People with Mobility Impairments." The section on "Attitudinal Barriers" gives brief, pithy statements of various attitudes that create barriers to participation in society by people who have disabilities, and it provides helpful, practical suggestions for reducing those barriers. For example, "Try listening with an open mind to what the person with the disability is saying without prejudicing your thoughts about what he or she can or cannot do." The suggestions and tips can easily be applied in church situations. 

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Community Builder

I don't see why communicating with us is such a big deal.  Most of us are normal people who happen to have a handicap, so the problem is really in their heads; they're the ones tagging us with the word "disabled", so they just need to stop thinking of people with handicaps as disabled and the hurdle will be gone.  Another thing that might help them would be to keep in mind that we're all limited in some way or other because of the effects of sin in our lives, and for some people it's more obvious than for others.  Nobody has the word disabled written on their forehead, and you're not abnormal because you walk with a stick or get around in a wheelchair.  Some people are really stupid and maybe that's their handicap.

Guide

HI Michele, I appreciate what you are saying, but I think we who do not have disabilities do need a little coaching. People tend to feel anxious around someone who is different from them (for whatever reason), and getting a little instruction about what to do and not do can help. For example, I just heard a blind mind say that recently he was walking down the street, using his cane, and came to a post which he detected with his cane. Just as he was about to go around the post, a man grabbed him by the shoulders and said "Stop." Obviously, the blind man was surprised and upset and said, "Don't grab me." The other man thought he was trying to help, but only startled the blind man who knew what he was doing. So a little guidance like knowing to ask, "Can I help you in any way?" is really good. Or another, if you are going to talk with a person in a wheelchair for longer than a few seconds, pull up a chair so that she doesn't have to strain her neck. Maybe not knowing to do these things is stupidity on the part of us nondisabled people, but I would prefer to call it lack of knowledge. And that's easy to correct with a simple tool like this document if only people would be willing to read and apply it.  

Community Builder

Oh, I didn't mean stupidity in that sense, but to avoid talking to people because they have a visible handicap, or to talk down to them as though being blind or walking with a stick or having a mental illness equals being intellectually handicapped, that's what I find stupid. Whether we have a visible handicap or not, we are people first and foremost.

Guide

Amen to that. The church would be a long ways toward true community if everyone treated each other as people first!

Making a effort to communicate would help too! It can be difficult to initiate a conversation or show if you have a interest in the person. Take this site as a example, no one has engaged me on any comment or even asked “ how are you” or what’s going on in life. I have heard people don’t like the UN, lol

Hi Ken,

I hope you are well.  I see you must have been doing a lot of reading lately, and your thoughts on various topics are most welcome.  Sometimes when topics have grown stale, re-igniting the conversation can be difficult. 

I'd like to hear more of your story, Ken, and would love to be in communication with you if that is something that would be uplifting in your life.  Please feel free to email me at eric.vandyken@yahoo.com if you would like to be in conversation.  Thanks for your contributions, and may God bless you as you seek to flourish under his sovereign care.

In Christ,

Eric

Thx Eric, I might take you up on that offer. I so use to going it alone I not sure how anymore. It’s also difficult for me to type and concentrate for extended periods! Aka 5 min! Lol

The lack of interest iof people who can’t communicate in a “ normal” way or participate in “ normal” activities is my biggest barrier! I have plenty to say and receive but few to actually commune with! I understand why because I was Normal once! I have learned to rely on the Lord and create my on small world!