Disability Etiquette

My mother had to use a scooter to get around in her later years. Not only did she require assistance with her scooter, she also required the use of oxygen continuously. She could not handle strong odors like perfume or smoke as this would cause her to have a bad reaction.

While tending to her needs, I realized some businesses, agencies, and organizations were not thoughtful with etiquette procedures for those with motor or mobility impairments. I realize some of us who do not have physical disabilities do not understand the difficulties of those who do.

A colleague of mine pointed out something to me as simple as changing chairs with armrests to with those without, so people with great stature could fit more comfortably in them. I was surprised that I failed to think of such a courteous gesture. I am not a cruel person who wanted to embarrass or shame anyone. Plain and simply put, inclusiveness and etiquette were not in the foremost of my thoughts nor of my organization. It should have been.

A friend of mine used a wheelchair to get around. One day it was raining, and I asked her if she wanted a ride to a meeting. She gladly accepted the invitation. To our surprise, there were only steps up to the facility. My poor friend had to go around the whole building to find a ramp up to go inside, all the while rain pounding on her. After this event took place, I started thinking of all the issues and obstacles she had to deal with that I took advantage of.

When we had functions in our office, I always made sure a space around the table did not have a chair, so she could roll up to the table without feeling out of place. During social functions, long lines formed during our luncheons. I asked to fix her plate of food as the line would have been hard for her to navigate through. These are just a few things I could do for her. However, I try to keep my eyes and ears open, so that I can help others who may have difficulty because of neglectful thinking of others.

To build an inclusive workforce, all-encompassing and complete, for employees with disabilities there are several resources that can be beneficial: Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy: www.dol.gov/odep. Disability Etiquette: https://askjan.org/topics/disetiq.cfm is a quick reference that might come in handy. This is a quick reminder of things to help with recruitment, interviewing, and greeting a person with a disability. It lists different etiquettes for mobility impairments, vision impairments, hearing impairment, speech impairment, respiratory or sensitivity impairment, mental health and cognitive impairments.

Pass on the information

Unless we are the ones at a disadvantage or know someone who is, this information may be new to you. If so, please take a moment and think of ways you can use this information or pass it along. Sometimes it is the little things that people do that make the biggest difference in someone’s life.

Angela Sheppard is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She started working with the State Attorney’s Office 23 years ago. She first started as the receptionist and then progressed to the Diversion Program Director. While in her current position, she has shown initiative in community outreach activities, advocacy in prevention, and revitalizing programs. While working with the State, she has earned her Public Administration Master Degree, Certification as a Certified Florida Family Mediator, and a Graduate Certificate for Human Resource Policy Management. Angela spends her spare time volunteering as Board Chair with AMIKids, a non-profit school. She enjoys enrichment programs such as GovLoop.com and other educational media.

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