Many people think that they don’t know any “disabled people” or that disabled people never apply for jobs at their company. This can make people anxious about meeting or working with disabled colleagues.
Disability awareness (sometimes called disability responsiveness or equality training) can help to ensure that both managers and employees feel confident about how to communicate with disabled colleagues and understand more about disability.
The most effective training focuses on the workplace and includes information on the business case for including disabled people as employers and customers. Some supported employment agencies will provide disability awareness training at the beginning of new placements.
A number of disability organisations provide disability awareness training. Make contact with your local disability organisations.
The Office for Disability Issues provides some useful guides and tools on disability etiquette. Read more about it here:
Section 3.32 of “Making it work – reaping the benefits of disability equality: Disability confidence” has a very good summary of disability etiquette which provides you with some specific impairment information.
Download the entire document here:
What should I say?
People often worry about saying the wrong thing when talking to disabled people. If you are unsure about how to say something ask the person what they prefer. Respectful language about disability and disabled people should be used even if a disabled person is not present.
A few basic rules:
- Never describe people by their impairments eg 'an epileptic', or 'a diabetic'.
- Do not use collective nouns such as 'the disabled' or 'the blind'.
- People without a disability should be described as 'non-disabled' rather than 'able bodied' as people with learning difficulties or mental health problems may consider themselves as disabled.
- Don't be embarrassed about using common expressions such as 'see you later' in front of someone who has a visual impairment or 'you'll hear from me soon' to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.
The International Labour Organisation
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has recognised the importance of providing resources to ensure the effective employment of disabled people. The attached pamphlet outlines ILO's commitment to getting disabled people into employment and the support it offers.
- Download the ILO leaflet (PDF, 185KB)