Disabled people often talk about the ‘awkwardness’ which others may feel or show towards them. Most often, this is because people don’t wish to offend and don’t know what to ask. However, moving towards equality requires that we are mindful of own biases and barriers; good communication needs honesty and openness.
You should never feel hesitant about asking someone if they have any support needs. If they don’t, they will tell you so. If they do, however, they will appreciate that you have offered and will tell you what they need.
What to ask?
If you know that the person has a visual impairment, for example, you may want to ask them what, if anything, they require, where they would prefer to sit, if the blinds should be drawn over, or lighting increased. Perhaps the person has a guide dog; or is accompanied. Find out more about guiding a blind person.
If someone has a hearing impairment, ask them what communication support they may need, if any. Perhaps they lipread; ask where they would be best placed in a meeting or interview situation to ensure that they can see everyone’s face clearly. It’s really just common sense!
Here are some more questions you may wish to ask, but remember, there are no silly questions. Your intention to help will recognised.
Easy question no. 1 : Is there anything you need? Simple, but effective!
Do you require a hearing loop?
Do you need any alternative formats? For example, large print, audio or easy read?
Will you require an interpreter (eg., BSL, palantypist or notetaker). Bear in mind that this will have to be well in advance of your meeting, as interpreters can be very difficult to organise.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do give a disabled person space to talk. If someone is difficult to understand, or speaks very slowly, don’t interrupt or finish off sentences! Allow the person to speak at their own pace and in their own words.
Do provide clear instruction, whether in writing or verbally. Everyone appreciates clarity!
Do be aware that a disability may mean that a person cannot hear, see or understand in the way that you do. Think about the environment, how the information is being provided, how the person is ensured of being able to participate in the conversation.
Don’t miss an opportunity to create a more inclusive environment!