Tips on how to
communicate with persons
with a disability

GOLDEN RULES

Generally, when meeting people with a disability:

  1. Treat a person with a disability just like any other person.
  2. Do not stigmatize them for their disabilities.
  3. Treat them and those accompanying them with courtesy and respect.
  4. Ask before helping them.
  5. Do not focus on personal or medical issues.
  6. Respect their choice and do not be offended by a refusal.

When meeting people with visual impairment:

  1. Take the initiative to introduce yourself and other people.
  2. Describe what you are doing and avoid relying on eye contacts and body gestures etc. Remember to tell them when you wish to leave.
  3. Use "left" or "right or clock directions to describe positions. E.g. The chair is at one’s right. When the object is not exactly at one’s right or left, you may wish to describe its position by using clock directions. E.g. Eggs are at the two o’clock position and a toast at the five o’clock position on one’s plate. Avoid using words like "here" or "there" etc.
  4. When leading them to walk, let them hold your upper arm from behind. By doing so, they can sense your body movements and follow you when going up or down or turn round. Please do not grab them when leading them.
  5. Terms/phrases such as "look" or "see you later" are acceptable. They are not taboos for people with visual impairment.
  6. When furniture has been moved to a familiar place, describe the changes and walk with people with visual impairment around that place once.

When meeting people with hearing impairment:

  1. Attract their attention by waving your hand. Do not shout at them.
  2. When you speak to someone who knows lip-reading, please speak clearly and naturally. It is not necessary to exaggerate your mouth movements. Do not speak too fast, cover your mouth or chew gum. Please slow down when asked.
  3. Facial expressions and gestures may help to convey your message.
  4. Talk to them directly even though there is a sign language interpreter.
  5. Listen attentively to what they say. Some of them may not be able to speak clearly.
  6. When you do not understand what they say or their sign language,
    • ask them politely to repeat, or
    • try to work out alternatives such as using a pen and paper.

When meeting people with a physical disability:

  1. Talk to wheelchair users at their eye level. Please sit down if possible but please do not lean on their wheelchairs as wheelchairs are parts of their personal space.
  2. Ask before you wish to push their wheelchairs.
  3. People with limited hand movements or artificial limbs can usually shake hands with others.
  4. Offer help if they have difficulties in opening a door.

When meeting people with a mental disability:

Do not presume that they are more prone to violence than other people.