Respecting People with Disabilities

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).

Just as no one person is like another, no person with a disability is the same as another, even if he or she has the same disability. A disability is a functional limitation that may interfere with a person’s ability to walk, hear, talk, see, think, and learn but does not affect each person in the same way. In addition, some people may have multiple disabilities in varying degrees.

When speaking or associating with a person with a disability:

  • Smile; be yourself.
  • Focus on the person’s capabilities. Don’t be so focused on a person’s disability that you don’t see the person.
  • Talk to the person with a disability—or with the person’s caregivers, when appropriate—about how you can include the person in activities and what he or she is comfortable with.
  • Be respectful. Offer assistance if asked or if the need is obvious. Do not move wheelchairs or other mobility aids without permission from the owner.
  • Speak slowly and directly when talking to a person with a hearing impairment. Do not assume a person with a hearing or speech impairment has an intellectual disability.
  • Be patient.
  • Be considerate of that person’s feelings when talking to others. Would you want what you are about to say being said about you?

Remember to speak softly unless the person has a hearing impairment. Speaking loudly does not improve understanding.

People First Language

Terms considered appropriate often differ from group to group and from generation to generation. A good rule of thumb is to consider the person before the disability. For example, a person with a disability is not a “disabled woman” or “handicapped man.” Nor is Sister Smith “disabled” or “handicapped.” Rather, refer to the person first and, if needed, the disability second: “Sister Smith” or “Sister Smith has a disability”

For Members with Disabilities, Their Family Members, or Their Caregivers

Be patient as other members learn about disability issues and overcome misperceptions. Realize that most members of the Church are open to guidance on how to help and include those with disabilities. Recognize that others who care may also be prompted on how to help. The Holy Ghost can help family, teachers, and leaders reach out and be helpful. 

See Also: Understanding Members with Disabilities