Lest you forget, people with disabilities have feelings, too. And not knowing what should and shouldn't be said in the workplace can lead to tense situations and feelings of discomfort which could be avoided.
Remembering a few simple rules will help make encounters more pleasant. Consider the following rules of courtesy, provided by the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living:
- Refer to the person before referring to the disability.
- Never refer to the person in overly dramatic terms such as "afflicted with" or "suffering from." These phrases tend to exude pity instead of indifference.
- Never use terms such as "defect," "retarded" or "mentally deficient." Such people simply have below-average intellectual functioning.
- Don't use the term "handicapped" unless talking about parking spaces. Handicapped originates from a somewhat derogatory reference to people who beg for money with their caps in their hands.
- Remember that the person sitting in a wheelchair uses it for mobility and doesn't want to be seen as "wheelchair bound" or "confined" to a wheelchair.
- Don't call someone who can't speak "dumb" or "deaf-dumb;" simply refer to him as a person who cannot speak.