More and more people with physical, mental and emotional impairments are joining the workforce, and business people who become disabled are returning to work like never before. The basic etiquette with the differently-abled persons is the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated. Here are some other tips for making business more comfortable for you and your professional contacts.
People Who Are Mobility Impaired:
- A wheelchair is part of a person’s space and should not be touched, leaned on, or pushed without explicit permission.
- Offer assistance, but don’t be surprised if you’re turned down. If your offer is accepted, ask for instructions -- how you can best help. Then, follow the instructions to the letter.
- Check for accessibility before you schedule a meeting or event. If you have no choice in the location, warn the person with mobility impairments about obstacles ahead of time.
- Never ask about a disability. Not only is it considered rude, but they are not meeting with you to educate you about their impairments.
- Sit down, to put yourself at eye-level with the wheelchair user.
People With Hearing Impairments:
- Look directly at the person with hearing loss when you speak.
- Do not obscure your mouth with your hand, facial hair, or other distractions.
- There are many degrees of hearing loss and many ways to communicate. Ask the individual for their preferences.
- Don’t shout or exaggerate mouth movements.
- To get the attention of a hearing impaired person, call his or her name; if no response, then you may lightly touch an arm or shoulder.
- Don't shout at the person. If they are deaf, shouting won't help them read your lips and body language. It will make you look silly.
- Don't talk more slowly than usual. This is for the same reason as shouting.
People Who Are Visually Impaired:
- Offer the use of your arm, but do not be offended if your help is refused.
- Describe the room to a visually impaired person: “There is a conference table about five feet in front of you.”
- Guide-dogs are not pets, they are working. Do not pat, play with or feed them.
- Never grab or steer the cane of a person with visual impairments.
- Ask what format you should use in sharing documents. Braille, large type and audiotapes all have their proponents. Give the recipient the choice of format.
- Speak directly to the person with visual impairments, not to his or her companion or guide.
- Always identify yourself by name each time you say something until you are sure they know your voice without question.
People With Psychiatric Disabilities:
- Don’t make assumptions that people with psychiatric disabilities need or want to be treated differently.
- Do not expect people with psychiatric disabilities to any more violence prone that the general population.- People with psychiatric disabilities do not necessarily have cognitive deficits. They hold down many jobs of variable skill levels.
- Many people with psychiatric disabilities are legally competent to sign contracts and handle their own affairs.
Cynthia Lett is currently the only etiquette & protocol expert holding both the Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP®) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP®) in the world.
These are designations earned by examination through the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals. Since 1983, her expertise has been as a professional consultant in Business & Social Etiquette, Business & Social Entertaining, International Protocol and Executive Communications Skills and International Meeting Planning. She has been a seminar speaker and coach around the world - teaching and advising on these subjects. She offers private and corporate consultation and seminars on the power skills necessary to compete in the international business arena. Clients include major universities, Fortune 500 companies, international associations and savvy professionals from all levels of the corporate ladder. She taught the Masters level course, "Business Protocol" for the George Washington University, Elliott School of International Affairs for eight years.
Ms. Lett is the principal of The Lett Group ( www.lettgroup.com ) and the founder and Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals ( www.ispep.org ) . She is the host of It’s APROPOS!- an Internet talk show on the Success Channel at www.successtalk.com . Ms. Lett is a regular on-air contributor to Fox News Channel, Fox Business Channel, and various radio talk shows nationwide. As a frequent contributor to trade and business publications she ranks as one of the most widely quoted etiquette and protocol experts in the United States of America.
As Executive Director of The International Society of Protocol and Etiquette Professionals, Ms. Lett developed the only internationally recognized professional certification programs for the etiquette and protocol fields. To date there have been exam takers from over eleven countries who have earned the CPP® and CEP® designations. As a leader in the field, Ms. Lett continues to guide the careers of many trainers of the subjects through her Protégé Program and training.