What if I blunder when I communicate with people with disabilities?

Don't be embarrassed if you happen to use accepted, common expressions such as "See you later" or "Did you hear about that?" that seem to relate to a person's disability. Don't be afraid to ask questions when you're unsure of what to do.

If you make a mistake, it's okay. Apologize, learn from it and move on. Remember, treat others as you would wish to be treated: with respect and consideration.
I have felt very bad about comments that I have made when talking with people who have physical disabilities. However, I can look back now and laugh at most of them. I always apologize when I catch myself making a mistake and have found that many people will have a sense of humor and joke back with me to make light of my mistake because they realized that I felt uncomfortable and regretted my mistake.

A genuine smile and developing rapport with people goes a long way. Get to know the individual, not just the disability. As your relationship grows and you practice awareness of any areas that the person may be sensitive towards, you will find your effort yields tremendous results. Just avoid making the same mistake more than once; otherwise your actions may come off as insensitive.

You may want to come up with some alternate phrases or gestures that will accommodate people with specific challenges. For instance, I have a friend that has only one hand. After asking if he "wanted a hand" and feeling horrible about it, I programmed myself to ask if "I can help" with something. I have noticed a similar situation in the airline industry, even with the TSA security officers. They used to say, "Have a nice flight" (or something to that effect) and a common response is "You too!" I have done that countless times and have felt quite silly. The industry has adapted because they don't want people to feel silly. Now they use phrases such as "Have a nice day!"

Try to set yourself up for success and plan out how you will greet, interact with and depart from the individual and you will smooth out your communication in no time.
Lana Pacheco

It is really important to give the person with a disability the same respect you would anyone else. Or even the same respect you would want if in that position. I have heard from some of my physically challenged clients that people will either ignore them or worst talk down to them. Mostly people with physical disabilities know that is the first thing you will see about them so given that recognition it is ok to move onto to how you can help them. Involve them in the exercise program. Ask about what they think their strengths and limitations. As a fitness professional, become part of their team of caregivers. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.