How to help and how not to...

Our peers with different disabilities have summed up in a short but enjoyable way how to help and not help a person with a disability. Read and spread to as many people as possible, very useful information!

For a physically disabled

The most important thing is not to do things for them if they’re not asked for! It could easily end up in an accident otherwise. It’s much easier to tip out someone from a wheelchair than we would think. First let’s ask if they need help at all, if they do, then ask how to help them.

What do you have to pay attention to when the person’s walking with a guiding rod, or when they’re shuttling with a wheelchair? How the wheelchair “works” isn’t a dumb question at all.

Pay attention to the ground’s surface. Benches, slopes, potholes, stairs are all opponents.

But the focus is on communication. The person will let us know how we’re able to help. The way some people talk might be hard to understand, but they all have a way to make themselves understood. Otherwise they wouldn’t wander the streets alone.

For a hearing impaired

  1. Try to get the deaf or hearing impaired attention. Address them, try to look them in the eyes, if not possible, gently touch their shoulders.
  2. Stand in the correct position! Face them directly, a little bit further than normally – when standing 1,5-2 meters away, not only your facial, but your body’s expressions are better visible too (for example arm movements). Make sure to face the light, possibly don’t let the shadow hit your face.
  3. Let them know what you’d like to talk about beforehand! It’s especially important for those who read your lips to know the topic, so they could figure the words out easier. When choosing the topic, let them know!
  4. Speak clearly and comprehensively! Don’t raise your voice, when you do your mouth moves in a different way, making it harder to figure the words out. Keep your normal tone, pay attention to a clear pronunciation. Use shorter, simpler sentences! The tempo of your speech should be a bit slower, keep slightly longer breaks – because they have to pay attention to more things at once (movement of mouth, body-expressions), takes more time to do all this.
  5. Keep eye contact! As to most hearing impaired, facial expressions and the movement of the mouth are very important, make sure these are visible. Don’t look down at your phone, don’t look away when pointing somewhere. 
  6. Use your body! Alongside the talking, facial expressions and movements of the arms are just as useful during speaking, so use them bravely. For example, when asking, raise your eyebrows. Make sure to be clear with the expressions, however no need to exaggerate. 
  7. Ask back! From time to time make sure the person has understood what you said. You shouldn’t only ask yes or no questions (Do you understand?), you could ask in a way they have to answer with more words, gestures (How many copies do you need? Two.)
  8. If you still can't understand each other, get a pen and paper (perhaps smartphone), continue the communication in writing!

Communication with the help of an interpreter:

  1. During the conversation, face the hearing impaired, not the translator!
  2. Keep in mind, the translator can only deliver a bit later than said. Wait a bit longer, until they are finished with all the new information.

For a visually impaired

Same goes to a visually impaired person: Always ask them! First of all, ask if help is needed, if so, what can we help. Then ask the next big question, how can we help? 

Visually impaired are not the same, we all like to recieve help in a different way. The two most common ways, when the visually impaired grabs onto the accompanying or when they hold onto their shoulders.

We have to keep in mind that the visually impaired are unable to see when we’d like to approach them. As so, an easy way to approach properly (because we don’t necessarily know their names if they’re strangers on the streets) is to touch them somewhere where’s comfortable with the helper and the visually impaired person (shoulders, elbows).

You shouldn’t get scared by a visually impaired just because they won’t keep eye contact. Simply face towards them, they do feel our attention facing them as we speak.

All in all: never help without being asked for it, it could cause uncomfortable situations. Let me tell a typical example: when a visually impaired is standing at a crossing, a stranger approaches him and without a question grabs onto him. She starts to drag him across the street by his hand or clothes. It’s possible he didn’t even intend to cross the road, he might have been simply waiting. So, in all situations ask them if they need help and how to help them. Never drag them across streets, or push them in front of you without question!

Finally, if they say no to our help offering, we shouldn’t feel bad. It’s possible if they are able to solve their problems by themselves, their answer isn’t against us.

For an autistic

For an autistic the most useful help, when there’s online, visual description and when there’s a chance to meet or talk to the helpers before an event.

They are just as human as anyone else, as to they’re not all the same either. With a meet up beforehand the special, unique needs of their own could be discussed. Pointing out: it’s normal to use sound filtering devices, to avoid activities that include uncomfortable smells or touch stimulus.

When showing directions, use visual helping points. Instead of “go straight ahead for 100 meters and then left” say “go straight ahead and look for the sign on the left at the pier” or “the brown cubic building is the house you’re looking for, there’s the x program”. You might have to accompany them to places. Sometimes giving visual points to help find a direction is more useful for a non-autistic person as well. 

If not necessary don’t touch them and don’t force eye contact.

If they “stim” – as in -“flap with hands”, “sway from side to side”, it’s not unusual, you shouldn’t stop or hold them down. This is their way of expressing happiness/excitement or letting in all the stimuli, releasing these. There are harmful stims, in these cases, try to carefully but firmly discourage them (for example: banging their head against the wall, biting their hand). Find their helper, they’ll help.

If you see I need help, please don’t necessarily touch me and don’t force eye contact. If you know my name (i might wear a name tag), approach me firmly and ask me to pay attention to you and ask what you could do for me.

If I’m overflowing with emotions or having a breakdown, keep me safe, don’t let an accident happen, don’t let me hurt myself or others – but be patient and easy. Look for my helper, if i have one, or lead me to a more quiet place. If you think it’s needed, stay with me until my helper arrives or until I feel better. Please keep away from all people either they try to help.

Talk me into a “bearhug”. This means that you should firmly hug me on a big surface (just carefully). My favourite is when my helper squeezes me into his chest and puts pressure on my back and upper arms. Many of us like this pressure on our back and upper arms (“bearhugs”, weight blanket, weight west).

Most of us find it helpful if you say what you say in a simple, logical, clearly understandable way. Don’t talk too fast, don’t talk in a difficult way. Some of us might stare at yourn mouth when the background noise makes it hard to understand you. If we make faces, we’re just focusing hard. 

Please make sure we understand you fully before saying something new, (don’t talk fast) – understanding might take more time. We might not communicate with words, we point, use cards, apps, sign language, writing. Might be unusual, but it’s clear, easy to understand. If you don’t know our language, use the way said before, easy, simple words. Nice conversations aren’t rare this way.

For a mentally impaired

When talking to a mentally impaired, we should talk in a simple way and articulate very well! We should talk about one thing at a time, briefly, in simple sentences.

See if they’re following on what we’re saying. If we ask them to do something and they can only do it slowly, be patient and encourage them that they can do it.

Of course, it depends on how serious the mental disability is. Be nice, pay attention and show love!

Thank you for the preparation: Berkes Gergő, Koltai Kriszta, Almádi Evelin, Anthe Aspie, Hegedűs Szandra, members of the People First Association - Pécs (Hungary)