It is not always easy knowing how to deal with a loved one’s physical disabilities. There are several ways you can make dealing with the limitations more pleasant for your loved, such as making a list of any distinctive needs that your loved one might have. It is important to understand your loved one may take longer to complete certain activities, so plan for this extra time. When possible, make special arrangements in advance. The extra preparation can make local and distant travel more pleasurable.

Always address your loved one before addressing the disability. They are an individual with a disability, not a disabled individual. Be patient if your loved one needs extra time to say something. For individuals suffering from hearing loss and those in wheel chairs, try to speak to your loved one at eye level. They might not like you bending over to talk to them because it may give the impression you are amplifying their disability. It is a good idea to pay attention to their reaction to gauge their comfort level. Do your best not to talk to them like a baby or use to use other child-oriented behavior. This comes across as very insulting. Inappropriately, people tend to falsely equate physical disability with cognitive delays and translate that assumption into subjective assessments of mental age. Physical limitations do not tell you how much they are able to process or how intelligent they are. Try not to do anything that suggests you are trying to compensate for their disability.

Although your loved one has limited physical abilities, never insist on helping. Instead of insisting, rather offer help.  Do not make assumptions about the value of life for the disabled. You could be implying that disabled life is a waste. Treat people with disabilities the same as you would treat anyone else.  Learn about your loved one’s disability. Approach the situation with an optimistic, reassuring frame of mind. Accept help from local support groups and community services. Be aware of the situation and let the disabled person lead.

Disabled people are always people first.

-by Nicole B., community educator