Let’s Talk about Disability Etiquette

A little man wearing a bow tie and a top hat holding a cane under the word etiquetteDisability etiquette is the common phrase used to discuss socially appropriate ways of interacting and engaging with someone that has a disability. Just as the phrase implies, people that practice good etiquette treat everyone they meet with respect while avoiding faux pas and embarrassing situations.

When people do not practice good disability etiquette, they can inadvertently perform microaggressions. Microaggressions are the everyday verbal and nonverbal behaviors that insult, intimidate, or exclude people who belong to minority groups (people of different abilities, races, genders, you name it). These behaviors are generally not intentional, but can still be quite hurtful to others.

Consider these examples of disability etiquette and microaggressions:

  • A waiter takes orders from two friends. One of them has a visual impairment. He raises his voice every time he talks to her, but talks to her friend normally.
  • A boy tells his friend he can’t stop feeling depressed and anxious. His friend tells him, “You’re not trying hard enough.”
  • A girl tells her friends she gets extended time on tests because of a learning disability. Her friends tell her it’s not fair she gets to have extra time when most students don’t.
  • A woman with a hearing loss gives the barista at Starbucks her order. He asks a question and she asks him to repeat several times. He gets impatient and says, “What, are you deaf?”
  • A man and woman are out on a date at a restaurant. The man is in a wheelchair. The waitress asks the woman what the man would like to eat.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of bad etiquette? Have you ever made an unintentional gaffe? We’re collecting stories to help raise awareness and educate others, so please tell us!

Comment (1)

  1. Caitlin Reilly
    Caitlin Reilly
    10 years ago

    I was in Las Vegas on vacation with my husband. We were riding an elevator and a woman Sid to me, you are lucky, you get to sit all day.” I was horrified. I believe I responded by saying something like, ” actually I’d much rather be able to stand!”

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