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Tips to Remember when Assisting People with Severe Disabilities in their Advocacy Efforts
Do’s and Don’ts when Mentoring to Individuals with Disabilities
- Do consider the person as a person first, as a customer second, and thirdly as a consumer.
- Do make every effort to understand what the person with speech impairment has to say.
- Do take time to listen and do not assume you know what the person wants to say.
- Do look at the person you are talking to and give him/her/them your full attention; this means do not fiddle with paper, read, or look at your watch.
- Do be open-minded when he/she is telling you what their vocational goal is.
- Do keep your expectations high and believe that the person has the ability to know their own capabilities.
- Do communicate with the person even if they are accompanied by a parent or an attendant.
- Do be courteous to the person.
- Do be encouraging and supportive. Avoid comments like “Come now, be realistic,” or “You know you’ll fail if you try that.”
- Do be sensitive and willing to offer accommodations appropriate to the person’s disability. Examples include offering to read documents to the person with a visual impairment, having a sign interpreter for the deaf, or providing a solid writing surface for people who have difficulty in using their hands.
- Don’t be negative when talking to a person with a severe disability. Negativity is stifling to a person not used to expressing themselves.
- Don’t be loud when conversing with a person with a disability who has no hearing impairment.
- Don’t try to be a mind reader when you are listening to a person with speech impairment. Believe me; this can be irritating because pretending to understand is insulting.
- Don’t underestimate the determination of the person you are talking to.
- Don’t let the appearance of the person influence you judgment of their abilities. A good rule to remember is the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
- Don’t be overprotective and deny the person their right to learn even if that means failing. A mentor can point out obstacles but should never force their opinions of what not possible.
- Don’t fail to offer appropriate accommodations if you are talking to a person with a disability.
- Don’t position yourself in such a way as to make it difficult to maintain eye contact with the person.
- Don’t talk to a person with speech impairment in a noisy environment. If possible, talk to them in a quiet environment.
- Don’t ever talk down to a person with a disability; this includes persons with cognitive disabilities.