I grew up in a time not only when the needs of individuals with disabilities were not taken into consideration by cultural organizations but also when the individuals with disabilities themselves were not taken into consideration by the public. Heck, few, if any, organizations at that time even had ramps for alternate access to their buildings.
When we encountered individuals with disabilities, we either treated them as if they didn’t exist or we stared at them. Worse, calling persons with disabilities ugly slang names was considered appropriate and even funny. In fact, calling persons without disabilities by those same names was also considered funny. I feel such shame at the memory of my complicity in those activities. Thanks to the efforts of disability rights activists those days have gone. Now the ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability. But the ADA doesn’t change our personal behaviors.
So, how can we learn to “interact more effectively” with individuals with disabilities? One way to start is by downloading the Tips on Interacting with People with Disabilities booklet, which is available from the United Spinal Association at http://www.unitedspinal.org/disability-etiquette/, because it’s a comprehensive and easily understandable guide.
-Teresa Carson, Associate Publisher