Some people may not know the best practices to follow when communicating with individuals with disabilities. There are some dos and don’ts in this situation. Our aim is to help you learn the best ways to communicate with people with disabilities to have effective and meaningful conversations and relationships.
Why Communicating with Individuals with Disabilities is Important:
It’s important to communicate with individuals with disabilities because individuals with disabilities are often overlooked within society, especially adults with intellectual disabilities. Many people might mean well when they choose to not make eye contact, walk away quickly, or give a quick greeting before moving on to what they need to accomplish within their day. The reality is that this lack of communication is actually communicating a lot of negativity to the individual, and it’s important to acknowledge that so we can improve communication in the future.
When you communicate effectively with people with disabilities it helps their voices, opinions, thoughts, and desires to be made known within a society and a community. When people with disabilities are given an opportunity to communicate effectively it helps improve their emotional and mental health, and helps them feel like they have a place of belonging in society.
Tips for Helpful Communication with Individuals with Disabilities:
There are some basic guidelines you should follow when speaking with individuals with disabilities. Here are some best practices to consider when engaging in these conversations:
Don’t Speak Loudly:
It can be a default to want to raise you voice and speak super slowly when speaking with someone with a disability. It’s important to remember that people with intellectual disabilities don’t automatically have a hearing impairment so raising your voice is not going to make them understand you better or more clearly. Speaking in a normal clear voice is always best.
Adults with intellectual disabilities might have a longer processing time to decode the information that you’re telling them. Be patient and give them the time to process what you said and then come up with a response for how they want to reply. Don’t try to rush through the conversation. Be present and in the moment.
Don’t Use a Patronizing Voice:;
Many people might default to wanting to speak to an adult with an intellectual disability with the same voice they would use to speak to an infant or a small child. This can come off as patronizing to the individual with a disability. If they are an adult, speak to them like they are an adult.
Speak to the Person not Their Aid:
If you see a person with a disability out in public with an aid or a caregiver it might be tempting to want to speak directly to the caregiver or aid about that person. Don’t do this. Always give the individual the opportunity to have the conversation first. If the individual with a disability doesn’t want to speak or the caregiver/aid feels the need to step in, they will. Otherwise, always default to speaking directly to the person and not their caregiver.