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.

Visual Disabilities

  • 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.

Mobility Impairments

Speech Impairments

  • 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

Cognitive Impairments

  • 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

Keywords:disabilities, presentations, communication hints, mobility, deaf, hard of hearing, blind, low vision, psychiatric impairment, speech impairment, general, learning disabilities   Doc ID:8381
Owner:Sandi A.Group:Accessibility & Usability
Created:2008-10-23 19:00 CDTUpdated:2019-07-30 17:09 CDT
Sites:Accessibility & Usability, DoIT Help Desk
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