Relating to Disabled People *

David A. Gershaw, Ph.D.

Most of us feel relatively uncomfortable when we meet someone with an obvious physical disability. Typically, the disability seems to stand out in our minds so much we often forget that the person is still a human being. In turn, our discomfort is likely to be betrayed by our actions, making that person uncomfortable too. How can we better relate to disabled people?

The following is adapted from a list of suggestions written by a disabled person to help us to relate to disabled people better.

We all have disabilities;
but some disabilities are not obvious to casual observers.

If you decide you want to have positive relationships with disabled people that you meet, the above suggestions will make you feel less uncomfortable and make your interaction easier. As some of you may have already noticed, many of these suggestions do not only apply to disabled persons they can be used with anyone you meet.

* Adapted from Byer, Shainberg and Jones' Dimensions of Human Sexuality, Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1988, page 271.

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