SAVOIR-VIVRE in relations with a person with disabilities

How should you behave towards a person with a disability you meet at university? Here is some good advice.

  1. Be open, not every disability is visible. Just because a student isn't in a wheelchair, doesn't have a white cane or hearing aid doesn't mean they aren't struggling with a problem or chronic illness.
  2. Pay attention - listen and notice unusual behaviour. Students experiencing mental health crises (depression, neuroses, schizophrenia, eating disorders) need support and understanding. If you are concerned about someone's behaviour, talk to them without judgement, and point out opportunities for help, such as free psychological support at the WUT.
  3. Don't pigeonhole - every person is different and needs to be treated individually. People on the autism spectrum have difficulty starting and maintaining conversations and establishing long-term relationships. Incorrect eye contact, body language, too loud or too quiet a voice, inappropriate tone of speech - do not mean bad intentions.
  4. Respect borrowed books, do not underline, mark with a highlighter, make notes in the margins - such marked passages after scanning may be unreadable for reading software (speech synthesisers) used by students with visual impairments.
  5. Help finding way around the faculty space - students with disabilities in their first year may find it difficult to find their way around a new space.
  6. If you take good notes, make them accessible to someone who has difficulty receiving content in lectures because they are visually impaired, blind, hard of hearing or deaf.
  7. Get rid of indifference! - Your possible tactlessness or clumsiness in helping will not be misconstrued.
  8. Ask - if you are not sure how to behave. Don't be afraid to ask for instructions; people with disabilities know exactly what help they need and can describe it.
  9. Speak directly to the person with a disability - when speaking to someone with a disability, such as a deaf person, speak directly to your interlocutor and not to a sign language interpreter, companion or helper.
  10. Be cautious about physical contact with a person who has a disability. Disabled people in a wheelchair or using a walker or crutches treat this equipment as part of their space. Therefore, it is best not to lean on these items or touch them without notice.