Q: Many times I find I want to offer assistance to people with disabilities but do not want to offend. Do you have any suggestions? A: I have spoken with people with some type of physical challenge, and they provided simple ways to make everyone more comfortable in such a situation. When meeting someone with a hearing impairment, always face the person directly when speaking. Speak clearly but don’t shout. Speak at a normal speed, enunciate clearly, and keep objects and your hands away from your mouth. Don’t worry about using everyday phrases in conversations with people with visual or hearing impairments. A person with a hearing problem will not be upset if you ask, “Have you heard?” A person with a vision impairment will not take offense if you say, “Did you see?” Be a patient listener to people with speech impediments. Don’t interrupt or try to finish sentences. Word questions so that short answers can be given, but don’t pretend you understand what has been said if you don’t. Repeat what you have heard and let the other person respond to or correct what really was said. If a person with a speech impairment uses an interpreter, speak directly to the person, never to the interpreter. Someone in a wheelchair is at a disadvantage in a conversation if you are standing. If possible, sit so that you are at the same eye level. Also, never lean on someone’s wheelchair. Consider the chair to be part of the person’s body and treat it appropriately. Never try to move someone in a wheelchair without telling them what you plan to do. A sudden unexpected movement can be unnerving. People with vision problems are at a disadvantage because they likely cannot see or identify the person approaching. Always identify yourself when greeting them. In a group conversation, each speaker should name the person to whom he or she is speaking. Tension usually arises because people do not know whether they should mention the disability. The safest route is not to mention the disability unless it comes up naturally in conversation. If you feel the need to offer help to someone with a disability, ask whether assistance is wanted or needed and wait until that assistance has been accepted before acting. Happenings April 23: 2nd Chance Fashion Show fundraiser. 11:30 a.m.; Muvico, The Oaks shopping center, Thousand Oaks. Event includes lunch, silent auction, fashion show and showing of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” For reservations, call 497-0189. April 27: “Brain Fitness” program preview. 9-10 a.m.; Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive, Westlake Village. No reservations required. Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362, or call 495-6250 or email email@example.com . Please include your telephone number. More …
How to help someone with a disability
About the Author: Betty Berry
Betty Berry brings a deep understanding of senior issues to her position as Senior Advocate for Senior Concerns. She has advocated for seniors since 1993. Through the Health Insurance Counseling Advocacy Program, known as HICAP, she is registered with the State of California as an Insurance Counselor, a Long-Term Care Insurance Counselor and a Community Educator. She has served on the Area Agency on Aging’s Advisory Council as a member and Chair, has been a member of the Financial Abuse Strategic Team (FAST) and currently serves on the Conejo Senior Volunteer Program (CSVP) Advisory Board and authors the Senior Advocate column that appears in the Ventura County Star. Betty completed her undergraduate degree at California Lutheran University and earned her Juris Doctorate degree at Ventura College of Law.
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