10 Do’s and Don’ts in the Disabled Culture.

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Disability Etiquette #1 of 10: Ask, “What do you do?”

Disability Etiquette #2 of 10: Individuals with disabilities can take a joke.

Disability Etiquette #3 of 10: Do Not Assume The Person With A Disability Is Ex-Military.

Disability Etiquette #4 of 10: People With Limitations Also Have Friends And Loved Ones.

Disability Etiquette #5 of 10: Don’t ask if the person with the limitation is capable of being sexually active.

Disability Etiquette #6 of 10: Don’t try to relate a temporary injury to a life-long limitation.

Disability Etiquette #7 of 10: Don’t act like you understood someone with a speech impediment if you did not. It’s perfectly okay to ask people to repeat themselves.

Disability Etiquette #8 of 10: Don’t talk to someone a limitation as if they cannot comprehend adult conversations. By using childlike vocabulary to speak to an adult you can come across as childlike yourself. It only makes people begin to wonder ‘Hmm, are you smarter than a fifth grader?’

Disability Etiquette #9 of 10: Unless the person is hearing impaired, there is no need to speak loudly with all people with disabilities. So many times, I wanna say, ‘Hold on, let me turn the volume on my wheelchair up so I can hear you better.’

Disability Etiquette #10 of 10: 
Don’t ask a person who is with another person with a limitation ‘Is that your special friend.’ At that point, you may be considered the ‘Special One.’

A few years ago, I had a close friend named Chad. We were pretty much as close as brothers. He and I both contribute to each other’s life. Physically I had my challenges I need Chad to help me with. Chad had his own personal problems I helped him with. It was indeed the definition of a mutual friendship. We both attended a megachurch together. This particular morning we were coming in between services, one of Chad’s friends recognized him in the group and came over immediately. Chad and his friend had their greetings, and then she looks over into my eyes while asking Chad, ‘Who is your special friend?

Before a word could come out of Chad’s mouth, I responded by saying, ‘This is my special friend, Chad.’ The moment of silence was priceless. People always tell me I have a quick wit. I was very proud of my quick wit that particular morning. We laughed it off and continued with the conversation. But the lesson lingered for years to come. The lesson is the word ‘special’ can be applied to anyone or anything for various reasons yet should not be applied to anyone due to the same reasoning.

Chad’s friend was what I call a ‘naive offender.’ A naive offender is someone who offends someone out of ignorance or a lack of knowledge. She made the following assumptions:

  1. That our relationship was somehow based on a charity outreach, and Chad wouldn’t ordinarily spend time with a person such as me- an individual with a physical limitation.
  2. Because of my physical limitation, I also had an intellectual limitation; therefore, I couldn’t introduce myself to her.
  3. This was a one-sided relationship because I couldn’t be contributing as much to Chad’s life as he was contributing to mine.

The assumptions she made are known as micro-iniquities. Micro-iniquities are theories that refer to hypothesized ways in which individuals are either singled out, overlooked, ignored, or otherwise discounted based on an unchangeable characteristic such as race or gender. When a person becomes a naive offender due to microinequities, the word special, as they use it, can also apply to them rather than the person they are linking it to. But, in reality, we are all unique. We all have something different to contribute to each other’s lives. Therefore, every friend we have should be considered a ‘Special Friend’ based on their contributions to our lives.