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11 Ways To Not Be An Absolute Jerk To People With Disabilities

Or, things that you should already be doing to avoid an awkward interaction.

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1. Don't kick the cane out from under a person with a disability.

Trenton Brown

Obviously kicking someone's cane out from under them makes the short list for things not to do to anyone. But Rather than focusing on the obvious things not to do, instead: Look for ways to serve them. Offer to hold the door open or grab something off a high shelf for someone in a wheelchair.

2. Don't park in the stall that is clearly marked for people with a disability.

First of all: Be courteous. They’re marked for a reason. It’s like if someone were to take your assigned parking spot at your apartment complex. Secondly: It's kind of against the law, and I'm sure that the only thing you want less than a glare from the person who's parking spot you took, is a ticket for a couple hundred dollars. Just don't do it.

3. Don't treat these individuals like a small child.

Rather: Offer help, like you would for the elderly or your mother. People with disabilities want to have some kind of independence, and you taking over basic actions strips them of that chance. Be polite, without being a babysitter.

4. Don't take the wheelchair accessible restroom stall.


Unlike the the parking space there isn't a fine associated with using this service. However the same respect that must be afforded with the parking space applies to this as well. Unless you have small children, Simply Be courteous. No matter how big your purse is, it’s common courtesy to leave those open for someone who actually needs it.

5. Use names, don't refer to someone by their disability.

Dr. Seuss exclaimed that "a person's a person, no matter how small" Say their names! They do have names, and that name is not “the guy in the wheelchair” we are different, but though those differences are a big part of us, we aren't defined by any of them.

6. Don't Belittle Them, i.e. Congratulating them for doing normal everyday tasks.


Although daily tasks may be more difficult for someone with a disability. Saying things like: "wow, it's so amazing that you go to the store without anyone to help you!" Is condescending, and chances are the person hasn't had any difficulty doing these tasks for a long time. If congratulations are in order ensure that it is for something actually out of the ordinary. Such as running a marathon with a prosthetic leg, or climbing Mt. Everest.... Blind. You get the picture.

7. Don't ask what they did to wind up this way

Jenyse Ikeno

Just like defining people by their disabilities is awkward and rude. Asking how they wound up with this ailment is just as bad. Ask them about the same things you would ask them about if they were more normal than you. Many people’s disability is beyond their control, and for those others the action that landed them where they are is a topic that is sensitive and perhaps difficult to talk about.

8. Don't avoid people with disabilities

Thomas M Perkins

It may seem like there are a lot of dos and don'ts for interacting with people who have a disability of some sort, but although violating the dos and don'ts can be awkward they are usually a lot less awkward than simply avoiding someone. They don’t have the Bubonic plague--become a friend and you’ll find they’ll be one of your favorite people.

9. Don't Say to Pray for A Miracle. Especially Don't Force This Practice on... Well Anyone.

Be understanding. While compassionate, some disabled individuals do not view their disability as hindrance, but rather as something that makes them beautiful. Demanding the opportunity to pray for them will not help proselyte your beliefs but will instead be an insult and offense. Seek to understand how they feel about their disability.

10. Don't make assumptions about what they can or can't do.

Let People With Disabilities be independent. If you have kids you know that even though comments about how cute your children are, while considerate, are frequently repetitive and waste time; People With Disabilities have the same problem in that they’re tired of getting the same comments questions every time they go to Walmart.

11. Don't Bully

Often since people with disabilities are seen as different or aren't generally understood it is easy to treat them in a way that can be hurtful. It goes without saying that bullying is not a nice thing to do. Offensive comments, jokes, and memes are definitely on the “Never Do... Ever!” List. Just because someone is different does not mean they are less. Be friendly, be open. Be a Decent Human.

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