Disability Etiquette

Etiquette advice to help you provide excellent service for members and attendees with disabilities.

When speaking with members, customers, or meeting attendees, it's always good to be polite. When those members, customers, or meeting attendees are people with disabilities, however, many of us are unsure of the rules of etiquette. A guide from the United Spinal Association, "Disability Etiquette," offers help:

Ask before you help. "If the setting is accessible, people with disabilities can usually get around fine," says the guide. If an attendee with disabilities does need help, ask specifically what you can do before you act. Well-meaning efforts to assist a wheelchair user, for example, could lead to you mistakenly breaking the wheelchair's handles or knocking the member onto the ground if you don't know what you're doing.

Don't make assumptions. People with disabilities are the best judge of their own capabilities, says the guide. Don't assume they can or cannot participate in any of your association's activities. However, if they ask for assistance …

… respond graciously to requests for accommodation. Don't think of a request for an interpreter or a similar accommodation as a complaint or imposition. Think of it as a chance to wow a member or potential member with great customer service.