If you have no previous experience with persons with disabilities, you might tend to various stereotypes:
- It’s much better some children with disabilities to be educated in special schools or kindergartens.
- People with disabilities either can’t work or require wide range of adjustments of their potential workplace.
These prejudices are just very natural result of having absolute lack of previous experience with such a person during our educational process or could not play with any during their childhood. We even do not meet enough independent and self-confident young people with disabilities in a street who would be able to have their own say on their different needs or to communicate their specific requirements.
We find it useful to make clear how should optimal communication with persons with various disabilities look like. Based on repeated poll between employees on Slovak labour market held by profesia.sk company, about 43% of respondents hasn’t met person with disability (or any other impairment) in their workplace. Up to 55% of respondents cannot say how they would perceive a person with visible disability. Only 8% of respondents have assumed to accept a colleague with a disability in their workplace.
If we lack any experience with colleague with disability, feeling of uncertainty, fear and disappointment of unknown are common thing. On the other hand, only by overcoming my own fears I can get closer to the world of persons with disabilities. The truth is that this dilemma is bilateral. Persons with disabilities may suffer by these abovementioned problems too. Only 8% of respondents have assumed to accept a colleague with a disability in their workplace.
Most of them want to be accepted ant to accept. They just want to be encircled by understanding and to be included in our society.
So, what is the secret behind good communication with persons with disabilities and how can we contribute?
- React on both, explicit or implicit fears and prejudices towards persons with disabilities. Question either you or your environment on the reasoning of their opinions towards persons with disabilities.
- Tell others about your good experience with persons with disabilities. Describe your previous fears and prejudices regarding this experience too.
- Make clear that showing respect to persons with disabilities is the key. You can declare this by accepting their ability to talk on their own, their ability to express their expectations and needs. They may, for this purpose, use a service of a personal assistant or an assistive technology too.
- Encourage your colleagues to ask persons with disabilities what they do need and how you could find yourself useful helping them, or how to provide them the support they need. Avoid such a word as “help” and “pitty”
- Offer your services as a “middleman” in a communication with person with disability. In this way you might show how a respectful communication looks like.
- Do not fear failures or faults. Try another way next time.
- Highlight the possibility of a different reactions of persons with disabilities- they might fail or deny and other progress of a communication too.
- Do not fear to express what you have learnt from persons with disabilities. Talk about your experiences. IN the end we are all human and we might fail, and we can retry ad we should because those with impairments are always the ones who lose more if something screws up.
By Terézia DRDULOVÁ, Slovakia
Author of the picture is P. Bicak, www.sbah.sk