Ask before you help
Just because someone has a disability, don’t assume she needs help.* If the setting is accessible, people with disabilities can usually get around fine. Adults with disabilities want to be treated as independent people. Offer assistance only if the person appears to need it. A person with a disability will oftentimes communicate when she needs help. And if she does want help, ask how before you act.
Be sensitive about physical contact
Some people with disabilities depend on their arms for balance. Grabbing them, even if your intention is to assist, could knock them off balance.
*Note: We want you to think of people who have disabilities as individuals—your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors—so rather than use the amorphous group term “they” for people with disabilities, we use the pronouns “he” or “she” throughout this booklet.
Think before you speak
Always speak directly to the person with a disability, not to his companion, aide or sign language interpreter. Making small talk with a person who has a disability is great; just talk to him as you would with anyone else. Respect his privacy. If you ask about his disability, he may feel like you are treating him as a disability, not as a human being. However, many people with disabilities are comfortable with questions about their disability after getting to know someone. A simple “I don’t feel comfortable sharing that” by the person with a disability can set the tone if it is not something that he/she is willing to share.
Don’t make assumptions
People with disabilities are the best judge of what they can or cannot do. Don’t make decisions for them about participating in any activity. Depending on the situation, it could be a violation of the ADA to exclude people because of a presumption about their limitations.
Respond graciously to requests
When people who have disabilities ask for an accommodation at your business, it is not a complaint. It shows they feel comfortable enough in your establishment to ask for what they need. And if they get a positive response, they will probably come back again and tell their friends about the good service they received.