People Who Have Disabilities Love Christmas Too… We Are All Open To The Magic Of The Holidays!
I have many years of working with people who have disabilities. the last 11 years I was a School Bus Driver of students with disabilities and now I’m a School Bus Aide. I interact with students all day. Words, when used carelessly, hurt as much as any injury. It’s most important that everyone understand and use terms for people with disabilities that explain, not ridicule or humiliate them. Using terms that are helpful in maintain their dignity and let’s them know that you see the person and not just their disabilities. This helps to open the door for meaningful dialogue, as well as recognizing them as a part of our group and community. They bring their special magic to the world. Love, understanding and caring about the people we interact with is the hallmark of my Santa for hire.
My 6 Commandments for Speaking to Someone with Disability…
Be respectful, above all else. Someone who has a disability should be afforded the same amount of respect as anyone else. We need to view each other as people, not impairments.
Never talk down to someone with a disability. Regardless of their abilities, no one wants to be treated like a child or patronized. Listening and nonverbal communication skills are the tools to meaningful dialogue.
Never use labels or offensive terms, especially in a casual way. Labels and derogatory names are not appropriate and should be avoided in conversation with someone who has a disability. Respect is earned… give in kindness and receive in kindness.
Speak directly to the person, not to the aide or translator. It’s frustrating for someone with a disability to have to deal with people never talking directly to them. Always talk to the person with the disability, rather than the people standing next to them. Their body may not be working fully, but it doesn’t mean their mind isn’t! Look them in the eye. People who have disabilities love Christmas too and want to be apart of the celebration.
Get yourself on the same level as the other person. If you’re speaking to someone whose disability causes them to be at a different height than you, as with a wheelchair, do your best to get on their level. This will enable you to speak face to face, rather than downwards, and can help make them more comfortable. This also works with young children. Get to the same level as their head or even just below theirs.
Be patient and ask questions, be there in the conversation. It can be tempting to speed along a conversation or to finish the sentences of someone with a disability, but doing so can be disrespectful and hurtful. Always let them speak and work at their own pace, without you egging them to speak, think, or move faster. Additionally, if you don’t understand something they said, don’t be afraid ask them to explain their answer. Communication is a two way street.
Above all… be respectful, helpful, understanding and truly care about what they have to say. We can all learn so must from each other if we take the time to talk and listen. People Who Have Disabilities Love Christmas Too!