Fatima Haffejee – Cii Opinion | 28 September 2012
Each time we’re faced with the onslaught of a negative aspect we are quick to barricade ourselves from the rest of the world. Closeted within our own in-securities we dwell solely on our own self esteem. Our ego makes it seem as if we are the only one faced with such burdensome issues.
Our hair is never too straight, our teeth are never white enough and our bodies never just the right shape and size. Between the battle of the bulges and our identity we are more concerned with the state of our outer than our inner.
Bombarded by bill board images and paperback magazines filled with images of scantily dressed models (male and female), we become more superficial than our will power would allow for us to admit. Insecurity can no longer be subjected to a particular age group. The days of marbles and pokemon cards are long gone. We’re left with parents struggling to come to terms with the fact that at 10 years old their ‘little girl’ is no longer just a ‘little girl’.
It is often when discussing incidents like these that I find myself coming across as judgmental. Yet, I continue to smack my lips in vehement disbelief. The commonly heard ‘you know when I was your age. . ‘ is not without accuracy.
The month of September marks disability awareness month. Whilst many teenagers (and even adults) may be struggling to come to terms with their insecurities there are individuals in our midst with genuine reasons to fear waking up the next morning. Yet, some of the happiest of persons I have ever met are the ones who face their entire lives with a disability.
There are many people who feel that their lives are enriched by their experiences with a disability, and would choose rather to live with their disability than erase it.
Many people often feel uncomfortable around a disable person. More so, they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, using the wrong terminology or sounding overly sympathetic.
So I ask the question (and answer it) for you. How do we treat a person with a disability?
Disabled people mainly want two things from you:
1.That you respect them (as you would anybody else) and
2.That you see them beyond their disability.
It is important for us to know when interacting with a disabled person that they too are people just like us.
Here under is a guideline on how to interact with people with disabilities.
(As extracted from: The Guide to etiquette and behaviour for relating to persons with disabilities)
Don’t make assumptions
about people or their disabilities. Don’t assume you know what someone wants, what he feels, or what is best for him. If you have a question about what to do, how to do it, what language or terminology to use, or what assistance to offer, ask them.
Remember that people with disabilities have different preferences. Just because one person with a disability prefers something one way doesn’t mean that another person with the same disability also prefers it that way.
Ask before you help. Before you help someone, ask if she would like help. In some cases a person with a disability might seem to be struggling, yet she is fine and would prefer to complete the task on her own. Follow the person’s cues and ask if you are not sure what to do. Don’t be offended if someone declines your offer of assistance.
Talk directly to the user, not to the interpreter, attendant, or friend. You don’t need to ignore the others entirely; just make sure to focus your interaction with the user. When a user who is deaf has an interpreter, the user will look at the interpreter as you are talking. It might take a little extra effort to remember to face the user rather than the interpreter.
If you will be speaking for some time with a person in a wheelchair, sit down so that you are at eye level with her so she doesn’t have to strain her neck to look up at you.
Speak normally. Some people have a tendency to talk louder and slower to people with disabilities; don’t. Don’t assume that because a person has one disability, that he also has a cognitive disability or is hard of hearing. For example, a person with cerebral palsy might use a wheelchair, have uncontrolled upper body movements, have difficulty speaking, and yet have very good hearing, cognitive abilities, and intelligence.
Use normal language including “see” and “look.” It’s fine to use common phrases such as, “Do you see what I mean?” even to people who are blind. People who are blind often make comments such as, “I can’t find what I’m looking for.”
Use “people-first” language when referring to people with disabilities. People-first language means put the person first and the disability second. For example, say “a man who is blind” rather than “a blind man,” and “a woman who uses a wheelchair” instead of “a wheelchair-bound woman.” Use people-first language when speaking with people with disabilities, and when speaking and writing about people with disabilities.
Avoid potentially offensive terms or euphemisms. Commonly accepted terminology includes “people with disabilities” and “a person with a visual/hearing/physical/speech/cognitive impairment.” Many people find annoying or offensive: restricted to a wheelchair, victim of, suffers from, retarded, deformed, crippled, and euphemisms such as physically challenged. If you are unsure, ask the person with a disability what terminology he prefers.
Once while a person was reading a consent form aloud, after hearing “visually impaired” several times, a participant said: “I’m blind. I know I’m blind. Just say ‘blind.”