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Ways We Can Support the Differently Abled

To better understand how we can support the Disabled population, we need to understand them and learn about their needs. While some places show progress integrating and supporting the disabled, unfortunately, there is still much ground to be covered.

So to learn and understand better, we should first listen to what they have to say;

Ask Them What They Need Before Stepping In

“The best way to support someone with a disability is to simply ask them what they need before assisting them with something. There are countless times when I've had well-intended people step in before asking me if I actually want their help. I know my limitations, and I know what I can and can't do. By asking someone with a disability how you can help, you're respecting their space and their ability. It shows that you're thoughtful and aware without making them feel uncomfortable or unintentionally undermining what they’re capable of.”

Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

Watch Your Words

“When interacting with differently-abled people, you want to be careful because a single word or comment can have a devastating effect on them. You do not want to make them doubt their abilities or lower their self-esteem and confidence.” says Harriet Chan, “Some of the ways to support people with disabilities include:

Ask For Their Permission Before Offering To Help

“The best thing you can do is understand that these people are aware of their needs and know how to conduct themselves as they carry out their daily activities. You can treat them as equals who do not always need assistance. If you want to help, be sure to ask first.” (Harriet Chan)

Respect Their Private Space

“Everyone enjoys their personal space, and people with disabilities are no different. If you have to touch on any of their equipment, like wheelchairs or white cane, ask for their permission. You may not know how to handle them, which may irritate them. Be sure to knock on the door before entering their room.” (Harriet Chan)

When Meeting Them, Make Sure The Place Is Accessible

“You can always confirm the accessibility of the venue when planning a meeting. Always check the venue and ask if there is anything they can let you do to ensure everyone feels comfortable.”

Harriet Chan, co-founder of CocoFinder

Take Their Perspective on How Things Should be Improved For the Disabled

“People who are affected by disabilities and chronic illnesses can encounter a range of life struggles in areas such as health care; mental health care; recreation and leisure; school and work; family planning; housing; finances; relationships; and more. Having easier access to services, clearer navigation of services and service systems, and a greater understanding of how these services can be improved upon from the perspective of individuals with disabilities can dramatically improve their quality of life.” (Davina Tiwari)

Include Them In Programs to Handle These Issues

“It's important to include people with various disabilities and chronic illnesses in program planning at all levels to handle these issues. This enables their voices to be heard, their needs to be at the forefront, and their input to help design and shape services so that these resources can more fully meet their needs.” (Davina Tiwari)

Gather Their Input

“Conducting research, developing focus groups, and surveying people who could benefit from these service changes may be a valuable first step towards necessary change. The saying nothing about me without me rings true as those who are not in their unique situation cannot truly grasp all the complexities and nuances that those impacted by disabilities and chronic illnesses can.” (Davina Tiwari)

Better Integration and Equal Opportunities

“The members of society whose lives are affected by disabilities and chronic illnesses need to feel as though they have equal opportunities and access. Learning how to integrate them better needs to begin with their particular viewpoints as to what needs to change and what would be helpful. Gaining insight into their values, goals, needs, and beliefs as a springboard toward more effective change is a step in a positive direction.”

Davina Tiwari is a Registered Social Worker and writer for Choosing Therapy. She has extensive experience in healthcare, rehabilitation, social and community services.

“I am physically disabled since childhood.” says Dr. Raman K Attri, “Based on my own experiences and observing people with my kind of conditions with my scientist’s eyes, I suggest five things to support and integrate people with disabilities: 

Don’t Politicize The Word “Disabled”

“A disabled gadget technically means it does not work. None of the other fancy words like specially-abled or differently-abled can make them feel that way. Unless you accept it by realistically calling it a disability, it would be even harder for them to accept it.” (Dr. Raman K Attri)

Reserve Your Motivational Talks To Speed Up Their Acceptance

“The acceptance eventually comes though it is slower. Reserve your motivational speeches because those would not bring them acceptance earlier. While you might think so, it does not help.” (Dr. Raman K Attri)

Be Realistic In Your Expectations From Disabled People

“As a parent, don’t try to teach them how to live and do things like normal kids. Refrain from using pick-up quotes like “You are enough” “You are strong, you can do anything.” Instead, point out any leverages they have over and above other kids which they could use in their life to do amazing things. Perhaps, they have an uncanny sense of observation, superb thinking, or well-developed senses.” (Dr. Raman K Attri)

Visible Physical Disabilities Are The Tip Of The Iceberg

“The larger part is perceived limitations like feeling less than others or not being valued enough. While talking about their disabilities, be aware of the struggles they might experience beneath the surface.” (Dr. Raman K Attri)

Don’t Make Them Objects Of Motivation Or Inspiration

“While they are clearly struggling to perform essential functions in their lives, they don’t relate well when anyone makes it a source of motivation or inspiration. Instead, ask their honest inputs on how they have gotten such good clarity that is taking them that far.”

Dr. Raman K Attri Performance Scientist, XpertX Research Senior Global Learning Manager, KLA Corporation

Chloe Powers
Chloe works with policymakers on behalf of Disability Help to support their work at a strategic level, ensuring the conditions are in place for creative individuals and organizations to grow, reach their potential and effect relevant, sustainable change.
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