I. Feeling Comfortable with People with Disabilities
Disability is a functional loss resulting from the normal stresses and risks of living.
Physical and mental impairments may occur before birth, in youth or adulthood,
or as a normal process of aging. Some people still feel uncomfortable around people
with disabilities because of a fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. Fears ease with
knowledge and a few positive experiences.
- Treat all people as you want to be treated. Relax when communicating; let common t be afraid to repeat yourself or ask others to repeat themselves.
- Encourage participation; personally invite all to share their gifts.
- Offer assistance by asking what is needed, but don’t insist if your offer is declined.
- Allow people to do things for themselves, even if it takes longer or results in mistakes.
- Be patient and flexible with time schedules; allow time to attend to personal needs.
- Respect the individual's personal space and auxiliary aids: do not lean against a wheelchair, do not pet a service animal, do not grab an arm to guide, and do not move canes, crutches or walkers out of the reach of the person who uses them.
- Treat adults as adults no matter how severe a disability.
- Always speak directly to a person, not their companion or interpreter. Talk naturally to persons who are non-verbal or use communication devices.
- Recognize and remove obvious barriers; for example, people who are blind need drivers to travel and alternative formats to printed material.Above all, remember disability is just one of the many qualities that dignifies every human life.
- Despite individual differences we are all more alike than different. Look for commonalities, then your comfort level, positive interactions; and parish vitality will increase.
For more information contact Marsha Rivas, Equal Access Ministry
II. The Power of Language
Words are powerful. Even in everyday casual conversation the way we speak
about persons, groups and issues affects the hearts and minds of our listeners.
Since the stigma and embarrassment attached to mental illness can be a major
barrier to treatment it is especially important to use correct language when
speaking of persons touched by mental illness.
- PERSON FIRST LANGUAGE You would not introduce
- someone as your "cancer friend" because this person is first
- your friend and secondly someone with cancer. When
- speaking of a person with any type of disability refer first to
- the person and then if necessary speak of the disability.
(i.e., a person with mental illness, a person who has depression,
Betty who is the mother of a son with bi-polar disease)
- VICTIMIZATION Avoid words such as "afflicted," and "suffers,"
- as these words can lead to the assumption that all aspects of a
- person’s life are dominated by their disability and there is
nothing they can do about it. The reality is that for many persons with mental
illness there are effective treatments and times when the illness does not interfere
with their daily life.
- HUMOR AND NAME CALLING Do not use, or tolerate others using words
that make fun of mental illness and those whose life is touched by it. Humor that
adds to the burden of stigmatization including jokes and stories that mischaracterize
mental illness are never appropriate.
Distributed by www.ncpd.org (This resource may be reprinted provided you
credit the National Catholic Partnership on Disability.)