Five Tips for Coworkers of People With Disabilities.

October is a month focused on activism and outreach across the disability community. Among other things, it’s dwarfism awareness month, and disability employment awareness month. Both are important to me as are other campaigns going on in the next few weeks, but it’s the ladder I decided to focus on today. Specifically, I thought it would be useful to write out a few tips specifically for co-workers of employees with disabilities, since it’s not uncommon for the general population to not know how to interact with us in various situations.

Ask Before You Move

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things a co-worker can do is move my things without informing me of the move. This is especially true for me as a blind person who is also very short. If you move my phone, not only can I not see it but I might not be able to reach and find it. Talk about a wrench in your conference call plans!!!

Use Visual Words

Yes, I totally watched that youtube video. Asking me if I listened to it or heard someone enter the room sounds incredibly tacky. Just like you would with anyone else, ask if I’ve watched the video or seen the boss enter.

Proper Guide is Gold

There are many situations when having someone guide me is useful, and for those I will usually ask to take someone’s arm. However, I have been steered by the shoulders, pulled by my clothing, or led along by the tip of my cane. Neither of these are effective or safe methods of guiding a blind person.

Introduce Yourself

Sometimes it’s difficult to identify a person by a simple “Hi” or brief “good morning”. It never hurts to introduce yourself with a “Hi it’s Jim,” even if I know who you are nine times out of ten. Being left stunned because I can’t identify a greeter is never a great way to begin the morning.

Ask Before Assuming

No question is a stupid question, and you’ll feel better asking rather than doing. Think I’m lost? Not sure if I recognize your voice? Wondering if I can see the image projected on the board? That’s fine, just inquire. I, and most people with disabilities, will answer almost anything.
Some of these tips have come from encounters in the workplace, and others simply from navigating the world as a person with disabilities. Regardless of the scenario, they’re applicable in all situations but especially the work place. Have a tip I should add or a question about one already here? Comment here or on social and we’ll continue the conversation.

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