Disability Etiquette

Use Common Courtesy:

  • People with disabilities expect to be treated with the same level of respect as other individuals.
  • Think of the person first and the disability second.
  • Be yourself, be natural, don’t force enthusiasm.
  • A disability is not necessarily an illness. Do not treat people with disabilities as though they are sick. Treat them as healthy individuals.

Say “Person With A Disability”:

  • Describe a person with a disability in terms of the whole person – student, faculty, employee, staff member, or co-worker – and consider if having a disability is even relevant to the communication.
  • Please avoid: stereotypical or stigmatizing depictions of people with disabilities, phrases and words that demean individuals with disabilities, and outdated negative terms that convey a derogatory image.

Think Before You Speak:

  • Always speak directly to the person with a disability, not their sign-language interpreter, companion, or aide.
  • Respect privacy. Asking a stranger personal questions relating to their disability is not appropriate.

Ask Before You Help:

  • Don’t assume a person with a disability needs your help. If the setting is accessible, assistance is usually not required.
  • Offer assistance only if the person with a disability appears to need it, just as you would for a person without a disability.
  • If the person with a disability wants assistance, ask the person what would be helpful, before you act.

Be Sensitive About Physical Contact:

  • Respect physical space.
  • Avoid touching a person’s wheelchair, scooter, service animal (dog), or cane. Most people consider their assistive devices as part of their personal space.
  • Do not take hold of a person’s arm without asking, even if your intention is to assist. You could throw them off balance. Ask first and allow the person to show you how you can assist.

Respond Professionally To Requests:

  • If someone with a disability asks for a workplace or academic accommodation, be sure to approach the person with an open mind.
  • If you are unsure of how to respond to a request, be upfront; tell the individual you will get back to them in a reasonable time, then do so.
  • If in doubt, contact Human Resources (410) 455-2337, Student Support Services (academic) 410-455-2459 and/or the ADA Coordinator (410) 455-5745 for information. Voice/TTY: (410) 455-3233

Don’t Make Assumptions:

  • People with disabilities are the best judge of what they can or cannot do, what assistance they require, and how to live independently. Also, not all individuals with the same disability face the same issues.
  • Do not make decisions about an individual’s capabilities or ability to participate in an activity. Engage in thoughtful, inclusive dialogue, as the person may have a plan that is workable, or adaptable. Ask first.