In the fundraising world, we speak with people all day long. Upon meeting someone new, we instantly gauge and adjust our tone, body language, expressions and words based on what we learn within the first few moments of interaction.
We do this for many reasons, such as making others feel at ease and building trustworthiness.
In our work, whether we are asking for a gift or recruiting leadership volunteers within a campaign, we also need to know how to speak and interact with those with disabilities. This may be easier said than done, so it’s helpful to review a few important tips. These should be regarded as general caveats of appropriate behavior. Since everyone is different, these guidelines only hold true for most individuals most of the time.
- When interacting with someone with hearing loss do not make assumptions. If you do not know the individual’s preferred communication method, ask.
- To get the attention of a person with hearing loss, call his/her name. If there is no response, you can lightly touch him/her on the arm or shoulder or wave your hand.
- If an interpreter or caregiver is present, talk to and face the person, not the interpreter or caregiver. Always address your comments, questions and concerns directly to the person with whom you are talking.
- Watch the individual’s eyes to ensure understanding – do not depend on affirmative head nodding only.
- When greeting someone with a significant loss of vision, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. Say the name of the person to whom you are speaking to give a vocal cue.
- If the individual is in a wheel chair, find somewhere to sit down at the wheelchair user’s level.
- Keep in mind that, to a wheelchair user, the wheelchair is part of their body and personal space and should be treated as such. Do not rest your foot on the wheelchair and never move a person’s wheelchair unless you have been asked to do so.
- When a service dog is present, be sure to ask permission before petting the animal or else do not make contact with it.
- Treat adults in a manner befitting adults, regardless of their disability. Never patronize.
- Finally, always ask yourself, “How would you wish to be
treated?” The Golden Rule can be used in almost all of life’s circumstances.
“A single act of kindness is like a drop of oil on a patch of dry skin – seeping, spreading, and affecting more than the original need.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year