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Physical Disabilities

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Proper Manners Concerning People with Physical Disabilities

Using staircases and crossing thresholds

Familiar items in daily life, such as staircases, thresholds of doors, and curbs of roads, can be significant obstacles to people with physical disabilities, especially in their lower bodies. Disabled people’s ability to use, say, a staircase on their own without the help of others may vary depending on the severity of their disabilities. Some can climb a staircase in a wheelchair, albeit slowly, without assistance, while others cannot even attempt to do so without someone else’s help. This is due to differences in wheelchair users’ strength, wheelchair handling skills, and the types of wheelchairs they use.

When climbing a staircase, you can help a wheelchair user by tilting the wheelchair slightly backward. Make sure you ask whether the person would like to climb down the staircase backward or forward, and provide assistance accordingly. Regardless, the wheelchair must land on the ground on the back wheels first, with the person’s back securely resting on the back of the chair.

People withphysical disabilities who are unable to walk on their own especially struggle with moving up and down stairs. They may, however, be able to do sowithout assistance if there is a rail for them to hold. When helping someone with walking difficulties on a staircase, make sure you stand next to them throughout the entire process so that they may reach out and hold onto your arm if necessary.

Some people’s disabilities may be so severe that you might need to hold them by their waist and help them more carefully as they move up and down the staircase. In such cases, holding onto a disabled person’s arm will not be enough. In fact, attempting to do so may cause them to lose balance and fall.

You can also help disabled people move up and down staircases by standing close behind them so that you can help them up or maintain their balance when they are about to fall.

At the cashier

Bank tellers, post office clerks, and cashiers at retail shops should try to serve people in wheelchairs from low positions, such as lower tabletops or payment stands. Most wheelchair users prefer to interact with such people face to face rather than listening to their voices only.

If there are no specially designed stands or cashiers in your workplaceto accommodatethe needs of disabled people, at least make sure to provide an additional panel or counter of some kind on which wheelchair users may place their belongings or fill out the required forms and documents. It may also be helpful to hand them their change in small cups or bags so that they do not drop it.

If you work at a retail store, you may want to set up an additional counter that is lower than usual so that wheelchair users may place the items they wish to purchase on it. If your store offersa gift-wrapping service, ask wheelchair users whether they would like to have their purchase gift-wrapped. Customersusingcrutches may need a bag with handles to carry the goods they have purchased. For customers with physical disabilities of the arms, divide their purchases into two or more bags rather than putting them all in a single bag. And for customers using manually operated wheelchairs who will carry their goods on their laps, paper bags may be a better choice than slippery plastic bags.

If a disabled customer has purchased large quantities of goods or is otherwise unable to carry all of their purchases on their own, ask whether they would like to have the goods delivered to theirhome or taken to the parking garage or the nearest bust stop.

Modes of transportation

Transportation can be a matter of significant concern for people with disabilities who are invited to and intendto attend certain events or social functions. Physical disability, however, should not be a reason for staying at home alone all the time. People with disabilitiesare still able togo out and attend social functions, as long as their particular needs can be accommodated. Many people with disabilities, in fact, have no problem using public transportation.

Wheelchair users, however, require special care. Manually operated wheelchairs can be folded easily,allowing them to be placedin the trunks of cars or brought onto buses.

On most days, wheelchair users use larger, motorized wheelchairs, reservingthe smaller, manual wheelchairs only for times when they need to ride in cars. If you would like to assist a wheelchair user, first ask them what should be done (e.g., whether to fold the wheelchair). When assisting someone gettinginto a car, make sure you keep their clothes and/or hair as tidy as possible in the process and also tidy up their clothes and/or hair after gettinginto the car.

There is no need for wheelchair users to get out of their wheelchairs when riding special vehicles equipped with wheelchair ramps or lifts. These vehicles can come in quite handy when accommodating the travel needs of wheelchair users.

People with disabilities may still own and drive their own cars, which they will prefer, in most cases, to drive to and from the venues of social functions. These people are permitted to park their cars in spots designated especially for people with disabilities in public parking lots. However, if you have invited a person with disabilities who does not own or drive a carto a social function, please accommodate their transportation needs as much as possible.

Falling

People with disabilities are especially prone to tripping and falling. They may trip or fall either on their own or into/against other people. While walking down the street, take care not to bump into people with disabilities and cause them to fall.

When someone near usfalls, we instinctively reach out our arms to help them up. Some people with disabilities may require that sort of help, but others may find it easier to get up on their own. If you come across someone with disabilities who has fallen on the street, ask them whether they need any help to get up. If they say yes, reach out your arm so that they can hold on to it as they try to get up rather than grabbing and picking them up off the street.

At a restaurant

Today, most social gatherings take place at restaurants, where we converse with friends, family, or acquaintances over shared meals. Some people with disabilities, however, are averse to going out to such restaurants because they have difficulty chewing food or feel uncomfortable talking to a group of people while eating.

If youplan on holding a gathering that includes people with disabilities at a restaurant, try to choose a restaurant where there is plenty of space between the tables and chairs. If the restaurant is spacious enough, try to get a table not too far from the main entrance. People with disabilities of the hands or arms may have particular difficulty eating food. You can help them by cutting up their meat or arranging dishes to maximize their convenience. Most disabled people are uncomfortable asking for this kind of help in public places. Therefore, it is important to be proactive in volunteering to help. If you really want to help, offer your assistance before ordering food rather than after.Reassured by the knowledge that you will help them, the people with disabilities will feel more comfortable ordering the food they truly want to eat rather than the food that is most convenient to eat on their own.

Welcoming guests with disabilities to a restaurant

If you work at a restaurant and want to accommodate guestswith disabilities better, you can start by giving them larger tables or spaces, if possible. Make sure you do not seat these guests in spots where other people might trip over their wheelchairs or crutches.

Wheelchair users will prefer to sit at high tables rather than on floors, whilepeople using crutches or walkers will prefer to sit near a wall. As for people who have difficulty sitting down and standing up on their own, provide them with sturdy chairs with arms.

If your restaurant is spacious enough or has multiple floors, seat disabled guests as close to the main entrance as possible. If no table near the main entrance is presently available, ask the disabled guests whether they would like to sit somewhere else or wait until a table near the entrance becomesavailable.

Depending on the types of their disabilities, the shape of the restaurant’s chairs, and their own preferences, some wheelchair users may prefer to remain seated in their wheelchairs rather than move to restaurant chairs. If they so wish, remove restaurant chairs from their vicinity, ask if they would like you to move their wheelchairs closer to the table, and tell them where they should be seated. Make sure you speak to disabled guests directly rather than to their entire group.

If a disabled guest has difficulty moving their arms, move dishes and other objects to within easy reach. You may also provide them with straws when serving beverages or water. If your restaurant is a buffet where guests move around to get the food they want, assist your disabled guests to acquire their food. After the meal, place the bill at the center of the table. Do not assume that the non-disabled people will pay for the disabled.

During conversations

Disabilities can be a source of constant frustration and resentment for people, and you, as a non-disabled person, may feel impelled to pity them. Open expressions of pity, however, may provoke anger and resentment in people with disabilities. On the other hand, humor is a great way to bond, among the disabled and non-disabled alike. If the disabled person among your group is the first to suggest a topic for conversation, you may have greater leeway in asking questions. If you and your disabled acquaintance barely know each other, however, avoid asking questions about their private life.

Recreational activities

Non-disabled people often hesitate to invite people with disabilities to events or functions that involve lots of physicalactivity and recreation. If you are planning such an event, however, do not hesitate. You will be surprised to learn that people with physical disabilities can participate in and even enjoy various recreational activities. Aquatic activities, such as swimming, are especially enjoyable to people with disabilities of the arms or legs. Wheelchair users who are strong and skilled enough to maneuver their wheelchairs as needed can also enjoy participating in various sports. There are diverse types of wheelchairs designed to accommodate athletic activities.

There are, however, certain activities that most people with physical disabilities avoid. If the event includes such activities, let the disabled people decide for themselves whether to participate.

The physical ability and preferred activities of people with disabilities vary widely. It is, therefore, futile for non-disabled persons to try to determine which activities best fit their disabled friends’capabilities. If you are planning an outdoor event that could involve people with physical disabilities, invite them first and let them decide whether to engage in the planned activities.

If you are planning such an outdoor event and would like to invite people with disabilities, let them know in advance. Many people with disabilities require time to seek out and secure transportation arrangements. Also, some may need to take sufficient breaks between their outdoor activities, andothers may need help with personal grooming and putting on makeup. All these require forethought and planning. A person with disabilities may be able to do all these tasks on their own, but will still require more time than a non-disabled person to complete them.

However, do not assume that any and all spontaneous activities are to be avoided. Some people with disabilities may greatly enjoy, and have no difficulty attending, spur-of-the-moment events. People with disabilities whose conditions and symptoms fluctuate in severity from time to time may, in fact, prefer spontaneous activities because they do not know whether they will be able to attend events planned far in advance.

Paying a visit

People with physical disabilities enjoy having guests at their homes. They would rather play the role of host than be a guest in someone else’s home. If you have been invited to a disabled person’s home, do not play with their wheelchairs or leave your belongings carelessly on the floor. Make sure you put everything back inits proper place after your visit is over.

Personal belongings

Wheelchairs, crutches, and other such mobilityaidsused by people with disabilities are their personal belongings. Do not touch or use them without the owner’s permission, anddo not move them to places where the owner cannot reach them.

Dinner invitations

If you have invited someone with disabilities to dinner, ask them what kind of seating arrangement they prefer.

For example, a person who has difficulty turning around may prefer to sit in the middle of the table so that theycan see the faces of other guests without turning around. A wheelchair user may prefer to sit somewhere where table legs will not get in their way. People who use crutches or canes may prefer to sit near a wall on which they may rest their crutches or canes.

Do not heap large amounts of food onto small plates, anddo not fill glasses to the top with water or other beverages. Mugs may be better for the disabled than handle-less glasses. Straws are also recommended.

As for guests with disabilities of the hands or arms, cut up their meat and peel fruit for them. If your guest is severely disabled, you may need to spoon-feed them throughout the dinner. If you are spoon-feeding, make sure you do not forget to eat your own meal while still helping your guest.

Guests with disabilities of the hands or arms may take longer than others to finish their meals. Therefore, make sure you and your guests do not finish eating too far ahead of your disabled guests.

With children

Children may express innocent curiosity about the conditions of the people with disabilities they see. Many people with disabilities prefer to answer children’s questions on their own. Others, however, may prefer their caregivers to give answers. Parents should not be too harsh with their children for expressing natural curiosity. If people with disabilities show a willingness to continue conversations started by your children’s questions, let the conversations run their courses naturally.

If your children’s questions are directed toward physical disabilities, you, as a parent, may need to intervene. Make sure your child does not touch wheelchairs or other such mobilityaids without the owners’ permission.<

Extending invitations to people with physical disabilities

Non-disabled people often hesitate to invite people with disabilities to events or functions that feature lots of activity and recreation. If you are planning such an event, however, do not hesitate. You will be surprised to learn that people with physical disabilities can participate and even enjoy a variety of activities.

If you are planning such an event and would like to invite people with disabilities, let them know in advance. Many people with disabilities require time to seek out and secure transportation arrangements. Also, some disabled people may need to take sufficient breaks between their outdoor activities. Others may need help with personal grooming and putting on makeup. All of these require forethought and planning. A disabled person may be able to do all of these tasks on their own, but will still require more time than a non-disabled person to complete them.

However, do not assume that any and all spontaneous activities are to be avoided. Some people with disabilities are capable of preparing for and attending such activities at moment’s notice.

People with disabilities whose conditions and symptoms fluctuate in severity from time to time may, in fact, prefer spontaneous activities because they do not know whether they will be capable of attending events planned far in advance.

Inviting people with disabilities to your home

If you invite a person with disabilities to your home, they may wonder whether the building you live in has features and amenities to accommodate people with disabilities. You should tell your guest about the overall structure of your building and any disability-friendly features it may have in advance. Of particular interest are available parking spaces, the presence of staircases, and the location and accessibility of bathrooms.

Some obstacles can be easily overcome with some assistance. People with physical disabilities, however, may find it uncomfortable to be so dependent on the help of others. On the other hand, some may even be open to receiving help using the bathroom, andothers may require assistance taking the stairs.

As for wheelchair users, seat them in places from which they can readily greet others. They should also be given enough space so that they do notimpede the movements of others.

Place dogs and other pets in other rooms for the duration of the gathering. This applies to all pets, whether they are friendly or threatening, as pets can cause damage to wheelchairs, crutches, and other such devices.

If your guest has difficulty sitting down and standing up on their own, provide them with a sturdy chair with a back and arms. Avoid seating your guest on low or plush chairs or sofas.

As for guests using crutches or canes, seat them near a wall so that they may rest their crutches or canes against it.

By the door and elevator

If you notice a disabled person following behind you, hold the door for them. This is far better than offering to hold the person’s arm, cane, or wheelchair because it is easier for one person to pass through a door alone than it is for two. Continue holding the door until the person is completely through. Make sure their fingers are not on the door frame when you close the door.

The same applies to elevators. Hold the elevator door open for the person with disabilities until theyare well inside the elevator. Make sure their clothes, fingers, or other parts are well away from the elevator door. Also, ask the person to which floor they are traveling and press the appropriate button, if theyare willing to accept such help.

During conversations with wheelchair users

When talking with a wheelchair user, it is best to sit comfortably face to face. If you are unable to find a chair to sit in and, thus, must remain standing, make sure you move a bit away from the wheelchair user so that theydo not need to crane their neck too much in order to talk to you.

If you are outside, the sunshine may sometimes make conversation difficult. Have the wheelchair user turn their back to the sunlight or move to a shady area. If the conversation is to continue for some time, find a place with a chair for you to sit in. If no such chairs or other facilities can be found, ask the wheelchair user if they would be willing to move to a more comfortable place. Do not squat or crouch, as such positions will soon begin to exert physical strain on your body. The important thing is to keep facing the wheelchair user comfortably while talking.

Moving wheelchairs around

If you would like to help a wheelchair user, first ask them whether they need any help. If you start pushing a person’s wheelchair without explicit permission, the two of you may end up maneuvering the wheelchair in opposite directions. When on a ramp, never let go of the wheelchair without letting the person know first. Motorized wheelchairs are designed to allow wheelchair users to maneuver them easily, so no such help will be necessary.

Users of manual wheelchairs, on the other hand, do require the help of others. Such wheelchair users may tire easily as they must constantly push the wheels with their hands. However, while some wheelchair users will gladly accept and appreciate help moving their wheelchairs across thick carpets, up a steep slope, or when tired, others may not feel as uncomfortable receiving help from a stranger. When you push a wheelchair, be mindful of its size and the protruding foot rests. Also, keep an eye out for any bumps or obstacles on the road and avoid pushing the wheelchair through puddles or across grooves. Push it slowly and comfortably. Most importantly, ask the wheelchair user where they are headed first before starting to push the wheelchair.

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