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Communicating with accessibility in mind
A brief list of hints for communicating with people who have disabilities, individually or in presentations.
Communicating with all people
- Ask a person with a disability if he or she needs help before providing assistance.
- Talk directly to the person with a disability, not through the person's companion or interpreter. Refer to a person's disability only if it is relevant to the conversation. If so, mention the person first and then the disability. "A man who is blind" is better than "a blind man" because it puts the person first. Avoid negative descriptions of a person's disability. For example, "a person who uses a wheelchair" is more appropriate than "a person confined to a wheelchair." A wheelchair is not confining as it liberates the user's ability to be mobile.
- Do not interact with a person's guide dog or service dog unless you have received permission to do so.
- Additional Resource:
- Be descriptive. Say, "The computer is about three feet to your left," rather than "The computer is over there."
- Speak all of the content presented with overhead projections and other visuals.
- When guiding people with visual impairments, offer them your arm rather than grabbing or pushing them.
- Additional Resource: WebAIM Introduction to Visual Disabilities
- Sit or otherwise position yourself at the approximate height of people sitting in wheelchairs when you interact.
- Additional Resource: WebAIM - Introduction to Motor Disabilities
- Listen carefully. Repeat what you think you understand and then ask the person with a speech impairment to clarify or repeat the portion that you did not understand.
Auditory Disabilities (Deaf or Hard of Hearing)
- Face people with hearing impairments so they can see your lips. Avoid talking while chewing gum or eating.
- Speak clearly at a normal volume. Speak louder only if requested.
- Use paper and pencil if the person who is deaf does not read lips or if more accurate communication is needed.
- In groups raise hands to be recognized so the person who is deaf knows who is speaking. Repeat questions from audience members.
- When using an interpreter, speak directly to the person who is deaf; when an interpreter voices what a person who is deaf signs, look at the person who is deaf, not the interpreter.
- Additional Resource: WebAIM Introduction to Auditory Disabilities
- Provide information in clear, calm, respectful tones.
- Offer directions or instructions both orally and in writing. If asked, read instructions to individuals who have specific learning disabilities.
- Allow opportunities for addressing specific questions.
- Additional Resource: WebAIM Introduction to Cognitive Disabilities
Source: DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, Technology) website