Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Put people first.

Since I commute by train and bus, I run into many of the same people everyday. Yesterday, on my way home I rode the train with a women I see frequently. She's blind, and when we moved to exit at the same stop I asked if she needed assistance. We chatted on the way to her bus and were pleased to note that her first name is the same as my middle name. My conversation with Carol inspired this post on putting people not disability first.

Here are some resources that will help you interact with all people regardless of their (dis)abilities. It's not surprising that that these guidelines apply to everyone because species atypical people (like blond people, blind people, and any other group that is not in the majority) have many of the same needs, desires, concerns, hopes, etc. as everyone else. Considering that most people will be disabled at some point in their lives, this is especially true. Consider these suggestions:

--> Recognize that people are individuals. Give them respect and treat them they way you would want to be treated.
--> Treat adults as adults. Do not patronize people with disabilities by telling them how courageous they are, talking to them like they are children, or talking down to them.
--> Speak directly to the person not their companion (if they have one).
--> Offer assistance but only give it if your offer is accepted. Wait for any instructions the person may give you.
--> Don't focus on the disability, but don't pretend it doesn't exist.
--> Be willing to adjust your pace of walking or talking as necessary.

You may think that this will be easy, but take this test for bias first. If the results surprise or disappoint you, consider a visit to to learn how you can promote tolerance in yourself, your home and your community. Here are a few more resources you may want to consider:

* From Linc, Inc:
* From the National Center for Independent Living:
* From Disability Rights Advocates:

Remember that perspectives may differ because all people with disabilities don't agree on everything. Neither do all women. Or all wealthy people. Or all black people. You get the idea. When we recognize the value that all people possess we're well on the way to putting people first.

It was great meeting you, Carol! See you on MARTA!

"I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more if they had known they were slaves." -- Harriet Tubman


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