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Respectful Engagement

It is important to remember that since their disabilities are often obvious, people with mobility disabilities may have faced discrimination in the past. This can make it even more important to use your words and actions to demonstrate that you respect the person, see her/him as an equal, and are committed to providing appropriate accommodations.

Remember the challenge for a person isn’t the disability; it is lack of access to their environment. If adequate accessibility were provided, many mobility issues would disappear.

  • Generally, it’s more comfortable for people to communicate on the same level. If a person is sitting and you are going to have a long conversation, make an effort to sit down, too.
  • Adaptive equipment is considered an extension of the body and should be treated accordingly. Do not lean on a wheelchair, move crutches, or touch any assistive technology without asking permission first.
  • It’s fine to ask if a person would like help with mobility. However, it’s important to listen to and respect the person’s answer. He or she may have very good reasons for declining assistance.
  • When referring to a person with a mobility disability, use the word “person” first: “person who uses a wheelchair” or “person with arthritis”. Terms like “wheelchair bound” are offensive to many people. People don’t want to be referred to as “bound” to the devices that enable their mobility.
  • Some people with mobility disabilities experience a lack of stamina. If this is the case, take frequent breaks or offer to postpone less important tasks.