Disclaimer: Although we made every
effort to validate the information presented herein, we assume
no liability for any error or omission, or any action taken
in reliance thereupon.
Guide Dog Etiquette:
Guide dogs are the guiding eyes for the blind or visually
impaired people. These Dogs are specially bred and trained
for this most important job. People must follow certain
guidelines when meeting a guide dog so the guide dog and
the handler remain safe. Disregarding these guidelines
can distract the dog, which can create a dangerous situation
for the guide dog team. Therefore, you must observe following
- Do not touch, talk, feed or otherwise distract the
guide dog while he is wearing his harness. Do allow the
dog to concentrate and perform for the safety of his
handler (the guide dog user).
- Do not treat the guide dog as a pet. Do give the guide
dog the respect of a working dog.
- Do not give the dog commands. Do allow the handler
to do so.
- Do not try to take control in situations unfamiliar
to the guide dog or handler. Do assist the handler upon
- Do not walk on the dog’s left side as he may
become distracted or confused. Do walk on the handler’s
right side, but several paces behind.
- Do not attempt to grab or steer
the person while the guide dog is guiding him/her,
or attempt to hold the dog’s harness. Do ask
if the guide dog user needs your assistance and, if
so, offer your left arm.
- Do not give the guide dog people
food (e.g. table scraps). Do respect the guide dog
- Do not allow children to tease or abuse the dog. Do
let the dog rest undisturbed.
- Do not allow your pets to challenge or intimidate a
guide dog. Do only let them meet on neutral ground when
all parties can be carefully supervised.
- Do not allow the dog on your furniture or in areas
of the home where the handler does not wish it to go.
Do ask the handler to correct any misbehavior or trespassing.
- Do not let the dog out of the house unsupervised. Do
understand it is a very valuable animal.
- Do not make any eye contact with a working guide dog,
especially when dog is wearing the harness.
- Do not pat the dog on the head.
Do stroke the dog on the shoulder area but only with
its owner’s approval.
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Meeting a Blind Person:
What To Do When You Meet Someone Who is Blind or Visually
- Remember, a blind person is a person who happens to
- Feel free to offer your help to a blind person, but
pay attention to how he/she responds. If you are not
certain what to do, ask the person to explain how you
- When talking to a blind person, use a normal tone and
speed of voice. Blindness does not affect hearing or
- Speak directly to the blind person,
not to someone with him or her. Don’t consider
a companion to be a kind of interpreter.
- Introduce yourself and remember
name. Address the person by name when you start a conversation. “Hi,
Harry, my name is…”) Otherwise, he may not
realize you are talking to him. If you do not remember
the person’s name, and you want to speak to him,
lightly touch him on the arm and say something to indicate
that you are talking to him.
- Speaking when you enter a room
allows the blind person to know who is in the room
with him/her. A simple “Hi” is
- When you are leaving the room,
say so. Anyone would feel foolish talking into thin
air. E.g., “good-bye,
Sally; it was nice talking to you.”
- If there is something unusual in the room, e.g. furniture
that has been rearranged or a new pile of boxes, be sure
to tell the person.
- Do not grab the arm of a blind person to guide him/her.
Allow him/her to take your arm and walk a half-step behind
to anticipate curbs and steps.
- Be specific in giving directions. If a person is to
make a turn, say whether it should be left or right.
If you are unsure how to give directions, ask how you
may best assist him/her.
- When using stairs, you should
describe the number of steps, landings, and anything
unusual about them. Do indicate the location of the
handrail, but don’t
grab the person’s hand.
- When showing a blind person to a seat, direct him to
the back or arm of a chair.
- Warn the person of steps, ramps, narrow spots, and
- When handing objects to a blind/visually-impair person,
tell him/her you are doing so and then place it in his/her
- Blind people are generally accustomed
to using words like “see” and “look.” You should
feel free to use them too. Don’t say, “Come
feel this” instead of “come see this.” The
person will look at something in his or her own way -
whether with hands or eyes.
- The door to a room, cabinet, or a car left partially
open can be a hazard to a blind person.
- The senses of smell, touch, and hearing do not improve
when someone loses his or her sight. A blind/visually-impaired
person may rely on them more and therefore may get more
information through those senses.
- Many blind people are willing
to discuss blindness with you if you are curious, but
remember that it’s
an old story to them, and you should never ask for personal
details of how someone went blind if one is not willing
to talk about it. Find a common interest and have a good
time; they probably like as many things as you do.
White Cane Etiquette:
White cane is the name for a specifically designed and
color-coded cane used by the blind people to navigate around.
Several techniques are applied when navigating with it.
Blind people are trained in the use of it. Sighted people
often become confused when chance upon a blind person using
White cane. There are things that sighted people can do
to avoid tripping by the White cane.
- If you see a blind person with White cane walking in
your direction and about to run into you, do say something
to indicate your presence (i.e. do not be standing silently).
- If being a sighted-guide, i.e. assisting, a blind person
with White cane, do not grab or steer the White cane.
Have the blind person hold your elbow when you are guiding.
- Do not take away the White cane from the person even
if you are guiding him/her.
- Do not use White cane for any
other purpose than what it is designed for. The White
cane is not designed to hold someone’s weight
or to push heavy objects. The White cane is strictly
a mobility tool.
- In all fifty states, the law requires that drivers
are to yield the right of way when a blind person with
white cane crossing a street. The violation thereof may
include monetary fine or imprisonment, or both.
You may know or come across a person-using wheelchair
for his or her mobility. You need to be mindful of the
- Do not push wheelchair in any
direction without its owner’s permission.
- If you need to walk pass the person using wheelchair
and the space is limited, give a little time to a person-using
wheelchair to maneuver out of the way. The safety of
the person-using wheelchair is vital when navigating
- If the person is utilizing an electric wheelchair,
do not attempt to control his/her wheelchair without
permission; this will insure the safety of the wheelchair
Communicating with People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing:
- Do be mindful that even a minor
hearing problem can hamper a person’s ability
to understand what you say.
- Don’t assume that a hearing
aid corrects hearing loss.
- Do get the Deaf person’s attention before you
begin to speak. It is acceptable to tap a person lightly
on the shoulder or arm or to wave a hand, small piece
of paper or cloth gently in the person’s direction
to attract his or her attention.
- Do face the Deaf or hard of hearing
person and maintain eye contact throughout the conversation.
talk directly to the interpreter, but always to the Deaf
- Do stand close to the Deaf or
hard of hearing person. Don’t let any object obstruct the person’s
view of you; e.g., don’t talk while you write on
- Do make certain the Deaf person
can clearly see your mouth and face. Don’t eat,
smoke, chew gum or hold your hand in front of your
mouth while you talk.
- Do stand in a well-lighted place.
with your back to a light source such as a window. This
throws your face into shadow and makes it difficult to
- Do try to converse in a quiet
place. Don’t assume
that background noise makes no difference.
- Do speak and enunciate clearly,
but DON’T exaggerate
your lip movements.
- Do use your voice, but DON’T
shout. Many Deaf people can get some information through
sound, but shouting distorts both the sound of words
and lip movements.
- Do use facial expressions and
body language to clarify your message. Don’t
be embarrassed to be expressive.
- Do rephrase sentences that Deaf
understand. Don’t just repeat the same words repeatedly
in the same sequence.
- Do use pencil and paper or visual
aids as necessary. Don’t be embarrassed about
writing things down.
- When addressing deaf-blind person, do speak by forming
letters of the manual alphabet distinctly while he/she
holds one hand lightly over yours to feel the position
of your fingers. Be careful to move the fingers directly
from the position of one letter to the next and pause
slightly between words. If you or the person who is deaf-blind
are unfamiliar with the manual alphabet, you can print
capital letters in their palm. Be sure to pause between
People with Speech Disabilities:
A person, who is deaf, has a stammer, or other type of
speech disability, and using voice prosthesis, may be difficult
- Do give the person your full
attention and do not interrupt or finish sentences
for him/her. Do not just nod if you have trouble-understanding
person’s speech, rather,
do ask him/her to repeat it. Generally, a person will
appreciate your effort to hear what he/she has to say.
- If you want to be sure whether you have understood,
you can verify with the person by repeating it. If you
still cannot understand the person, ask him/her to write
it down or to suggest another way of aiding communication.
- A quiet environment always makes communication much
- Do not tease or laugh at a person who has a speech
Persons of Short Stature:
Two-hundred growth-related disorders can cause dwarfism,
which result in one being four feet ten inches or less
in height. For any adult, being treated as cute and childlike
because of the height can be a rough obstacle.
- Be mindful of having needed items within his/her range
to the maximum level possible. Do understand that individuals
of short stature count upon being able to use equipment
that is at their height. E.g., be thoughtful about not
using lower telephones, urinals, etc. (specially if they
are in limited supply).
- As with people with other disabilities, never pat or
kiss persons of short stature on the head.
- Do understand that the communication
becomes easier when people are at the same level. You
might kneel to be at the person’s level, stand back so you can
make eye contact, etc. This may not always be possible,
however, such as in a crowded place. Do act naturally
and follow the person’s cues.
People with Cerebral Palsy:
Because of injury to the central nervous system, people
with cerebral palsy (cp) have difficulty controlling their
- Persons with cerebral palsy may have slurred speech
and involuntary body movements. Your reaction may be
to discount what they are saying based on their appearance.
Do be mindful of your replies and interact with the person
as you would with anybody else.
- A person may appear to be not so well, or have a medical
crisis, might actually have cerebral palsy or another
disability. Have the facts before acting on your first
impression, whether the situation is social or otherwise.
People with Tourette Syndrome:
People with Tourette syndrome may make vocalizations or
gestures such as tics that they cannot control. A small
percent of people with Tourette syndrome may involuntarily
say ethnic slurs or obscene words.
- If a person with Tourette makes vocalizations throughout
a conversation, do simply wait for him/her to finish,
and then calmly continue the conversation.
- Understand the more the person tries to contain these
urges, the more the urges build up. It may be helpful
for a person with Tourette to have the choice to leave
the meeting or conversation shortly to release the build-up
in some private place.
People Who Look Different:
People who may not be restricted in their life activities,
but who are treated as if they have a disability because
of their appearance, do also have challenges albeit a different
ones. In short, people who look different have everyday
experience of finding people staring at them, looking away
or looking through them, as if they are invisible.
- We need to have a self-worth for all to be fully participating
and to be inclusive members of society. Be certain that
you are not contributing to stigmatize people who look
- If the situation is suitable, do initiate a conversation
and include the person in whatever is happening.
People with Hidden Disabilities:
Not all disabilities are apparent. A person may make a
request or act in a manner that might seem strange to you.
That request or actions may be disability-related.
- You may give ostensibly simple verbal directions to
someone; however, he/she may ask you to write it down.
He/she may have a learning disability, which makes written
communication easier. A person may request to sit down
while standing in line because of fatigued caused by
some illness or the effects of medication.
- Even though these types of disabilities
are hidden, they are real; therefore, do respect the
needs or requests when possible.
People with Epilepsy or Seizure Disorders:
Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by
seizures, which happens when the electrical system of the
brain malfunctions. The seizures may be convulsive, or
where one may appear to be in a trance. Throughout complex
partial seizures, one may make movements while he is actually
- When a person has a seizure,
you cannot do anything to prevent it. Do make sure
that a person’s head
is protected if he /she falls down, and wait for the
seizure to end.
- When the seizure has ended, a person may feel disoriented
and embarrassed. Do try to assure that he/she has privacy
to collect himself/herself.
- Do realize that beepers or strobe lights can also trigger
seizures in some people.
People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity:
People with multiple chemical sensitivity and respiratory
disabilities, such as asthma or emphysema, have reaction
to toxins when found in the air, e.g., stale air, fumes,
perfume, carpeting, air freshener, and the like. Even the
fumes from magic markers can trigger a severe reaction.
- Try to avoid spray-cleaning tables, windows or other
surfaces while people are in your place of business.
If you must use a spray product, spray or pour it carefully
into the cloth, not into the air. Use less-toxic products
when possible. People dealing with public, should take
easy on fragranced body-care products like cologne, hair
spray, hand lotion, and after-shave.
- Maintaining good ventilation and indoor air quality
will benefit all to stay healthier and more alert.
People with HIV & AIDS:
People with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or autoimmune
deficiency syndrome (AIDS) have impaired immune systems,
thus, their bodies have trouble fighting off infections.
- You cannot catch HIV through casual contacts, e.g.
shaking hands, so do not be afraid of touching or being
touched by a person with AIDS.
- A person with HIV or AIDS, however, is at substantial
risk of getting an airborne infection. Be mindful of
not putting someone else at risk.
- People with AIDS feel stigmatized; therefore, by simply
greeting or shaking their hand, you are letting them
know they are accepted.
People with Psychiatric Disabilities or Mental Illness:
People with psychiatric disabilities
may now and then have difficulties -- coping with the
daily tasks/interactions. Their disorder may interfere
with their ability to feel, think or relate to others.
Most people with psychiatric disabilities are not violent.
Among major obstacles they face are the people’s
attitudes about them. Since it is a hidden disability,
chances are you will not realize such a health condition.
- Stress can affect a person’s
ability to function. Do try to keep the pressure of
the situation to a minimum.
- People who have psychiatric disabilities have varying
personalities and different ways of coping with their
disability. Thus, some may have trouble noting social
cues, while others may be supersensitive. One person
may be very high energy, while other may appear sluggish.
Do ask what will make him/her most comfortable and respect
his/her needs to the maximum extent possible.
- In a crisis, do stay calm and be supportive as you
would with others. Ask how you can help, and find out
if there is a support person who can be sent for. If
proper, you might ask if he/she has medication that he/she
needs to take.
People with Developmental Disabilities:
People with developmental disabilities learn slowly. They
have a hard time using what they have learned and applying
it from one setting to another.
- Speak to the person in clear sentences, using simple
words and concrete examples rather than abstract concepts.
Do help him/her to understand any complex idea by breaking
it down into smaller parts.
- Do not use any childlike conversation or talk down
to people who have developmental disabilities. Observe
and gaze the pace of the complexity and vocabulary of
your speech according to theirs.
- Remember, he/she is an adult and, unless you are informed
otherwise, can make his/her own decisions.
- People with developmental disabilities may be anxious
to please; therefore, questions should be formulated
in a neutral manner to elicit accurate information. The
responses can then be verified by repeating each question
in another way.
- It can be tough for people with developmental disabilities
to make quick decisions; therefore, be patient and allow
them to take their time.
- A clear mark with pictograms will help a person with
developmental disabilities to find his/her way around
- People with developmental disabilities often rely on
routine and familiar route to manage their work and daily
living. A period of adjustment and some attention is
required when there is change in the routine or the environment.
People with Learning Disabilities:
Learning disabilities are lifelong
disorders that interfere with one’s ability to
receive, express or process information. Although they
have certain limitations, most people with learning disabilities
have average or above-average intelligence. You may not
realize that the person has a learning disability because
he/she functions so well in one thing and has problems
- People with dyslexia, or other reading disabilities,
have trouble reading written information. Give them verbal
explanations and allow extra time for reading.
- Do not be astonished if you convey
someone very simple instructions, but he/she requests
that you write them down. A person with learning disabilities,
such as auditory processing disorder, may need information
demonstrated or in writing because the spoken information
is “scrambled” as
he/she listens to it.
- Do ask the person how you can best convey the information;
be direct in your communication. A person with learning
disabilities may have trouble grasping subtleties.
- It may be easier for the person to function in a quiet
environment without distractions, such as a radio playing,
people moving around, etc.
People with Traumatic (or acquired) Brain Injury:
People with traumatic brain injury have had injury to
the brain typically because of trauma, such as an accident
or stroke. Some of the factors that affect people with
learning disabilities also apply to people with traumatic
brain injury. People with brain injury may have a loss
of muscle control or mobility that is not obvious. E.g.,
a person may not be able to sign his/her name, even though
he/she can move his/her hand.
- A person with a brain injury may have poor impulse
- A person may make inappropriate
comments and may not understand social cues or “get” indications
that he/she has offended someone.
- In his/her frustration to understand, or to get his/her
own ideas across, he/she may seem pushy.
- A person with a brain injury may be unable to follow
directions because of poor short-term memory or poor
directional orientation. She/he may ask to be accompanied,
although she/he does not appear to be mobility impaired.
- If you are not sure that the person understands you,
ask if she/he would like you to write down what you were
- A person may have trouble concentrating or organizing
her/his thoughts, especially in an over-stimulating environment,
like a crowded movie theater or transportation terminal.
Be patient. You might suggest going somewhere with fewer
Emergency Evacuation Procedures for People with Disabilities:
People with disabilities must be considered in any facilities
- Compile a voluntary list of people with disabilities
who are regulars at your facility, such as employees,
students or residents. While you are compiling this list,
let people know that even though they may not consider
themselves of having a disability, they should be included
if they may need help during an emergency (E.g. someone
whose asthma may be triggered by stress or smoke). Keep
the list updated to include people who are living with
temporary disabilities, such as a pregnant woman or someone
with a broken leg.
- Interview each individual on the list to plan the most
effective way to assist them in case of an emergency.
E.g., a person with a cognitive disability may get confused
and need assistance in following directions.
- Also, develop a plan, including a voluntary sign-in,
for an emergency that may affect people who are not attached
to the facility, such as customers, theatergoers, patients
or other members of the public.
- Practice the evacuation procedures and keep your plans
up to date.
Sometimes conflicts arise between people
with disabilities and the places they visit for work, recreation,
health care or education. These conflicts are usually the
result of misunderstanding or a lack of information. Sometimes
conflicts develop between people with disabilities who have
conflicting needs. E.g., a person who has a hearing loss
cannot hear the proceedings with the window open, but a person
with multiple chemical sensitivity needs the window open
for fresh air. Someone who uses a service dog may run into
a conflict with a person who has an anxiety disorder and
an extreme fear of dogs. All of these situations call for
flexibility, patience, creativity, and open communication
-- a willingness to listen to the other person’s perspective.
Sometimes good faith efforts are not enough, and parties
have difficulty working out their differences. In these cases,
consider using the services of a skilled mediator.