Have you ever been a bit nervous to communicate with someone who has a disability?
It can be a bit daunting sometimes, especially if you haven’t done so before. You might be concerned that you won’t be able to understand what they’re saying, or that you’ll come across as patronising.
Here are some tips to try and ensure that both you and the person you’re speaking with are comfortable!
1. What do I do with my eyes?
Whilst this sounds very simple, it’s super important. If you are not looking someone in the eye it can appear that you are not being entirely truthful, or even disinterested. But you also don’t want to maintain too much eye contact, as this can come across as intimidating or confrontational. As a rough rule, you can try to maintain eye contact for about 4-5 seconds. You would be surprised how often people with disabilities report that they are not looked in the eye during conversations.
2. Talk to me, not to them!
Remember: it’s important to communicate directly with the person you are conversing with. Do not talk to their carer instead, or pretend they are not in the room. Ensure you are speaking directly to the person.
3. Tone it down
Your tone of voice conveys a lot of information, you can show a range of emotions. Or even emphasize certain ideas that are important.
4. Communication is more than words
Sometimes we forget that are communication isn’t just words! Make sure to look for other signs of communication, such as eye contact, body movements and tone. Often, very important information is conveyed this way. If you are confused, it’s a great idea to seek clarification. You can repeat back your interpretation and ask if this is what was meant. For example, “So what you’re saying is…”
5. Context, context, context!
When someone is communicating with you, it can be helpful to consider the whole situation. For example, if the person you’re communicating with is a bit tired, or they’re in a new and unfamiliar environment, they might be interacting with you differently. It always helps to take these factors into account so that you understand where they’re coming from and how you can communicate most effectively.
6. Give them time
Sometimes, someone might need more time to process information or decide on their answer. So be patient! Instead of repeating the question straight away, wait a little longer and give them the opportunity to respond in their own time. Although it may be tempting, you should try not to rephrase yourself immediately. Imagine you you’d feel if the person you’re communicating with is always finishing your sentences. This same rule applies when someone is using some form of a communication device; rather than guessing what they are going to say, let them finish first.
7. Speak with respect.
Finally, as you would speak to any person, use your normal voice and be respectful of the person with a disability.
If you’d like to improve your ability to communicate with someone with a disability, please have a chat with us! You can contact us on 4948 9800.
Thanks for reading,