How to Talk to a Disabled Person?

Talking to a disabled person is difficult. Disabled people are very different from other people and you always have to be careful with what you say. The first thing you always need to do is ask them what’s wrong with them. It’s best to just get that out of the way. You also have to make sure that you speak very clearly, or they might not be able to understand you. Finally, you have to try to be as helpful as possible, because there probably are many things that they can’t do themselves. However, if you are really not sure how to talk to a disabled person, you should just avoid having a conversation with them at all, as this is always better than getting into an awkward situation.


Really? No, of course not. This obviously is how you should NOT talk to a person with a disability.


Even though some people are uncomfortable speaking to a person with a disability, it is really not that difficult. In fact, it is actually quite easy. People with disabilities are normal people and so there aren’t many good reasons to treat them differently than persons without disabilities.


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If there is any good advice you can give someone about talking to a person with a disability, it is this: Treat them as you would treat anyone else. A person is not defined by his or her disability and your conversation doesn’t need to be either. If a person cannot walk, they’ll probably sit in a wheelchair, and if they are missing a limb, you will notice that. Yes, that may be different from what you are used to, but that doesn’t have to make you conversation scary or awkward. The person, regardless of his or her disability, is probably still more than capable of interacting with you, so try not to let the disability affect your conversation.


IMG_5190One thing that is important to think about is what to call a person with a disability. Remember, the person may have a disability, but that does not mean that he or she is that disability. Enablecode’s team members suggest that you should try to avoid calling someone with a disability a “disabled person”. Rather, you should say “person with a disability”. This way, you always put the person before their disability and see them for what they are, a person (who just happens to have a disability). This is called people-first language. Every person has their own preferences and not everyone agrees with using people-first language, but it is widely accepted and not degrading.


Are you reading this here in Vietnam and wondering how to respectfully refer to a person with a disability in Vietnamese? Use “người khuyết tật”, which more or less translates to “person with a disability”. Due to a lack of awareness about disability, many people use another term “người tàn tật”, but please don’t. “Người tàn tật” basically means “cripple” or “invalid” and is a derogatory term. Many people who use this term do so out of habit, but when you say this, you basically imply that the person is capable of very little, which is insulting and generally incorrect.


So, basically, respect is key. Just keep this advice in mind the next time you talk to someone (with a disability). People are people, regardless of disabilities, so always treat the other person as you would like to be treated and everything will probably be fine!

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