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There are many kinds of limitations or disabilities:

  • Mobility Limitations

  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing

  • Speech Difficulty

  • Blind or Loss of Vision

  • Cognitive Disabilities


Mobility Limitations

Limitations can vary greatly. You may see people using wheelchairs, braces, walkers, crutches, canes or other assitive devices. Limitations may include arthritis, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, paraplegia and quadriplegia.


First, try to jump in their shoes and see what will be hard or they might need assistance with.

  • Be courteous.

  • Hold open a door for them. After all, opening doors is a simple courtesy that you might do for many people like a mother carrying a baby, anyone carrying stuff, older people, children, etc. But, for people with a mobility disability, doors can be most difficult and even dangerous. Feel free to go and simply open a door. If they say they don’t need help, just smile and greet them. Don’t take it personally. It can be difficult to lose independence. Always be kind and be proactive.

  • At the grocery store, or other businesses, courteously ask them if you can help them to retrieve an item from an upper shelf – or reach inside the refrigerated door. And, let them say yes or no. Some people do not want help, but no one will be offended by an offer graciously given. Don’t assume things.

  • Make certain you are not marginalizing anyone.

  • If a person uses a wheelchair – or any adaptive aid – treat it with respect. The device is an extension of that person.

  • Talk directly to the person using a wheelchair, rather than to someone else. Try to get to the individual’s level. Sit. Kneel. Or stand back so they don’t have to look up.

  • Feel free to shake hands gently.

  • Push a wheelchair only after asking the person if assistance is needed. Listen to their instructions.

  • Observe the location of accessible ramps, restrooms, elevators so you can help them.

  • If they have a service animal do not pet or distract the dog.

  • The American Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. Observe your surroundings through the eyes of someone with a mobility challenge. Look at the doors of your church, your office, stores you go to, etc. Do they have those heavy doors with those manual door closers? They are typically at the top of a door. And, they make opening doors more difficult. See if the building owner can reduce the tension. Please be warriors in reducing those tensions so they are easier for everyone.


Speech Difficulties

  • Do not equate speech difficulties with intellectual abillty.

  • Speak directly to the individual, not to a friend or companion.

  • Keep eye contact, do not look around or turn away.

  • Try to give your whole unhurried attention if the person has difficulty speaking.

  • Do not complete the speaker's sentences. Let the person finish.

  • Don't become frustrated when you canot understand, or pretend to understand when you really don't.

  • Do not be afraid to ask the person to repeat or spell a word, or ask them to use different words.


Deaf/Hard of Hearing

This term includes all people who have a hearing loss to any degree.  

  • Make sure you have the person's attention before you begin speaking. Either a tap on the shoulder or a visual signal can be used to gain attention

  • Always face the person when speaking. Make sure there is good light on your face.

  • Speak normally and do not exaggerate your speech - the person may wish to speech read.  Speech reading is only 30-50% effective.

  • Do not speak with anything in your mouth and keep your hands away from your mouth and face.  Move away from background noise.

  • If a word is not understood, try another word.

  • Beware of the false interpretations (a nod of the head does not necessarily mean "I understand.")

  • If a sign language interpreter is present, talk directly to the person who is deaf - not the interpretor.

  • Use a qualified sign language interpretor when necessary. Use sign language only if you are qualified.

  • If all else fails, use a pad a paper.


Blind or Loss of Vision

Speak directly to the person, using a normal tone of voice.

Identify yourself.

  • Do not be afraid to use terms like "See you soon."

  • Do not pet a guide dog.

  • Offer assistance but be guided by the individual's direction.

  • Walk alongside and slightly ahead of the person you are assisting. Do not hold their arm while walking. Let the individual hold your arm because the motion of your body tells the person what to expect.

  • Avoid escalators or revolving doors.

  • Assist the person on stairs by guiding a hand to a bannister. When giving assistance in seating, place the person's hand on the back or arm of the seat.

  • Never leave a person who is blind in an open area. Instead, lead the person to the side of the room, a chair or some landmark from which he or she can obtain a direction for travel.

  • Do not leave a person who is blind abruptly after talking in a crowd or any palce - without saying you are leaving. Make sure they are safe.


People with Cognitive Disabilities learn best when:

  • Information and instructions are presented in small, sequential steps, and reviewed frequently.

  • Prompt and consistent feedback are provided.

  • A hands-on approach is used.

  • They are provided concrete rather than abstract information.

  • The purpose of a task is made clear.

  • They are provided safe opportunities to make mistakes.

  • Skills are taught in natural environments.


If you have children out with you – especially school age children – teach them kindness by example. Don’t rush around or step in front of people even if you are in a hurry. Be respectful. Be kind. All of us are in this world together. Through kindness we can elevate all of us. It’s a win-win.


Make friends with people with disabilities; be helpful in public, advocate for them. Let’s all make safer, more accessible and welcoming communities.


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