Person First Language
- Person first; disability second.
- “Individuals with disabilities” instead of “the disabled” or “the handicapped.”
Individuals who use wheelchairs
- Never push or touch a wheelchair unless there is imminent danger.
- When talking with someone who uses a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, pull up a chair and sit down so you can be at eye-level with them.
- If someone looks like they’re struggling, ask if they’d like help and take your cue from them.
Individuals who have sensory disabilities (hearing or seeing)
- When speaking with someone who uses a sign language interpreter, look directly at the person and not at the interpreter.
- Let the person know when you’re entering or leaving a conversation.
- If someone appears to be lost or struggling, ask them if they’d like help and take your cue from them.
- When assisting someone who is blind, offer your elbow. Lead, don’t push.
Meeting and greeting
- Make it about connecting with the person rather than the hand-shaking ritual.
When you don’t understand what they’re saying
- Admit you don’t understand, but affirm that you want to.
- Ask them to repeat.
- If needed, go to another form of communication, like writing or texting.
Phrases to avoid
- “I could never do what you do.”
- “I don’t know how you do it.”
- “You’re so brave.”
- “You’re an inspiration to others.”
- “You won’t get any special favors from me.”
Words to avoid
- Handicapped, cripple, retarded, slow, sufferer, victim.
- Don’t assume all veterans want to talk about their experiences during service.
- Take your cues from each veteran.
- Gratitude is never wrong.
Relax, laugh, and listen!
- Connect with the person; not the disability.
- Offer help only after asking or when requested.
- Take your cues from the person.
- Treat adults as adults.
- Be spontaneous.