Experiencing “Labour Pains”? Retention Tip #3

I was recently contacted by an employer who was looking for some training for his employees around disability awareness.  He wants his staff to feel prepared and comfortable when working with some of their clients/customers who have disabilities.

So, it got me thinking, how confident are you with your use of words, communication, and general knowledge regarding your own thoughts and interactions with people with disabilities?

Let’s start with the definition of “disability.”

A disability is a functional limitation or restriction of an individual’s ability to perform an activity. The word “disabled” is an adjective, not a noun.  People are not conditions.  It is therefore preferable not to use the term “the disabled” but rather “people with disabilities.”

  • People with disabilities are comfortable with the terminology used to describe daily activities. People who use wheelchairs go for “walks,” people with visual impairments “see” what you mean, and so on.  A disability may just mean that some things are done in a different manner, but that doesn’t mean the words used to describe the activity must be different.
  • Remember that, although some disabilities are not visible, it does not mean they are less real. Individuals with invisible disabilities such as epilepsy, hemophilia, and mental health and learning or developmental disabilities also encounter barriers and negative attitudes.

Some suggestions to improve communications with persons with disabilities.

  • It is appropriate to shake hands when introduced to a person with a disability. People with limited hand use or who wear an artificial limb, do shake hands.
  • When talking with a person with a disability, speak directly to them, rather than through a companion, interpreter, or intervenor who may be there.
  • Be yourself. Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use accepted, common expressions such as “See you later” or “Got to be running along” that seem to relate to the person’s disability.
  • Offer assistance to a person with a disability if you feel like it but wait until your offer is accepted before you help. Listen to any instructions the person may want to give.
  • Be considerate to the extra time it might take for a person with a disability to get things done or said. Let the person set the pace in walking and talking.


  1. ALWAYS ASK the person what they need, and they will tell you.
  2. If someone approaches in a wheelchair, do not touch their chair unless you ask first. It is part of their personal space.
  3. Ask customers, clients, or employees if they require any accommodations or if there is anything that you should be aware of before meeting with them.
  4. Proper communication and use of words is very important.
  5. Ask people how they like to communicate.
  6. Treat all people as people, and not like they have a disability.


For more information call Tracy Isenor at: 902-201-5954

Email: tracy@futureworx.ca

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