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Communicating with People with Disabilities: Disability Facts


Below is an article that discusses issues related to communicating with people who have disabilities.

Communicating with People with Disabilities

Produced by Adaptive Environment Center under contract to Barrier Free Environments, NIDRR grant#H133D10122

Please note: This material is based in part on Achieving Physical and Communication Accessibility, a publication of the National Center for Access Unlimited, and Community Access Facts, an Adaptive Environments Center publication.

Employees or customers who have disabilities will feel most comfortable at your place of business if you consider these suggestions for effective communication:

Disability Facts: General Considerations

Do not be afraid to make a mistake when meeting and communicating with someone with a disability. Try following the suggestions below. Imagine how you would react if you were in similar situations. Keep in mind that a person who has a disability is a person, and, like you, is entitled to the dignity, consideration respect, and rights you expect for yourself.

Disability Facts: How to Treat People with Disabilities

Treat adults as adults. Address people with disabilities by their first names only when extending the same familiarity to all others present. (Never patronize people by patting them on the head or shoulder.)
Relax. If you don’t know what to do, allow the person who has a disability to put you at ease.

Disability Facts: Offering Assistance and How to Help

If you offer assistance and the person declines, do not insist. If it is accepted, ask how you can best help, and follow directions. Do not take over.
If someone with a disability is accompanied by another individual, address the person with a disability directly rather than speaking through the other person.

Disability Facts: “People First” Terminology

Place the person before the disability. Say “person with a disability,” rather than “disabled person.”

Disability Facts: How to Talk about the Disabled

Avoid referring to people by the disability they have, i.e.., “an epileptic,” “blind people”. A person is not a condition Rather, refer to “a person with epilepsy,” or “people who are blind.”

Disability Facts: Wheelchairs

People are not “bound” or “confined” to wheelchairs. They use them to increase their mobility and enhance their freedom. It is more accurate to say “wheelchair user” or “person who uses a wheelchair.”

Disability Facts: Physical Disabilities

Do not make assumptions about what a person can and cannot do. A person with a physical disability is the best judge of his or her own capabilities.
Do not push a person’s wheelchair or grab the arm of someone walking with difficulty, without first asking if you can be of assistance. Personal space includes a person’s wheelchair, crutches, or other mobility aid.
Never move someone’s crutch, walker, cane, or other mobility aid without permission.
When speaking to a person using a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, try to find a seat for yourself so the two of you are at eye level.

Disability Facts: Visual Disabilities

Identify yourself when you approach a person who is blind. If a new person approaches, introduce him or her.

It is appropriate to touch the person’s arm lightly when you speak so that he or she knows you are speaking to him or her.

Face the person and speak directly to him or her. Use a normal tone of voice.
Don’t leave without saying you are leaving.

If you are offering directions, be as specific as possible, and point out obstacles in the path of travel. Use clock cues (“the door is at 2 o’clock”).

Alert people who are blind or visually impaired to posted information.
Never pet or otherwise distract a guide dog unless the owner has given you permission.

You may offer assistance if it seems needed, but if your offer is declined, do not insist. If your offer is accepted, ask the person how you can best help.

Disability Facts: Hearing Disabilities

Ask the person how he or she prefers to communicate.

Disability Facts: Speaking with an Interpreter

If you are speaking through an interpreter, remember that the interpreter may lag a few words behind – especially if there are names or technical terms to be finger spelled – so pause occasionally to allow him or her time to translate completely and accurately.

Disability Facts: Talks to the Person who is Deaf

Talk directly to the person who is deaf or hard of hearing, not to the interpreter. However, although it may seem awkward to you, the person who is deaf or hard of hearing will look at the interpreter and may not make eye contact with you during the conversation.

Disability Facts: Get the Attention of the Person You Are Addressing

Before you start to speak, make sure you have the attention of the person you are addressing. A wave, a light touch on the shoulder, or other visual or tactile signals are appropriate ways of getting the person’s attention.
Speak in a clear, expressive manner. Do not over-enunciate or exaggerate words.
Unless you are specifically requested to do so, do not raise your voice. Speak in a normal tone; do not shout.

To facilitate speech reading, face into the light and keep your hands and other objects away from your mouth.

Disability Facts: Speech Reading

If the person is speech reading, face the person directly and maintain eye contact. Don’t turn your back or walk around while talking. If you look away, the person might assume the conversation is over.

Disability Facts: Writing a Message

While you are writing a message for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, don’t talk. The person cannot read your note and your lips at the same time.

If you do not understand something that is said, ask the person to repeat it or to write it down. The goal is communication; do not pretend to understand if you do not.

Disability Facts: Sign Language

If you know any sign language, try using it. It may help you communicate, and it will at least demonstrate your interest in communicating and your willingness to try.

Disability Facts: Speech Disabilities

Talk to people with speech disabilities as you would talk to anyone else.
Be friendly; start up a conversation.

Be patient, it may take the person a while to answer.

Give the person your undivided attention.

Ask the person for help in communicating with him or her. If the person uses a communication device such as a manual or electronic communication board, ask the person how best to use it.

Speak in your regular tone of voice.

Tell the person if you do not understand what he or she is trying to say. Ask the person to repeat the message, spell it, tell you in a different way, or write it down.

To obtain information quickly, ask short questions that require brief answers or a head nod. However, try not to insult the person’s intelligence with over-simplification.

Disability Facts: Cognitive Disabilities Or Mental Disabilities

Treat adults with cognitive disabilities as adults.

Disability Facts: Be Alert to Responses / Visual Forms of Communication

When speaking to someone who has a cognitive disability, try to be alert to their responses so that you can adjust your method of communication if necessary. For example, some people may benefit from simple, direct sentences or from supplementary visual forms of communication, such as gestures, diagrams, or demonstrations.
Use language that is concrete rather than abstract. Be specific, without being too simplistic. Using humor is fine, but do not interpret a lack of response as rudeness. Some people may not grasp the meaning of sarcasm or other subtleties of language.

Disability Facts: Brain Injuries

People with brain injuries may have short-term memory deficits and may repeat themselves or require information to be repeated.

Disability Facts: Auditory Perceptual Problems

People with auditory perceptual problems may need to have directions repeated, and may take notes to help them remember directions or the sequence of tasks. They may benefit from watching a task demonstrated.

Disability Facts: Perceptual Problems

People with perceptual or “sensory overload” problems may become disoriented or confused if there is too much to absorb at once. Provide information gradually and clearly. Reduce background noise if possible.

Repeat information using different wording or a different communication approach if necessary. Allow time for the information to be fully understood.

Don’t pretend to understand if you do not. Ask the person to repeat what was said.
In conversation, people with mental retardation may respond slowly, so give them time. Be patient, flexible, and supportive.

Some people who have a cognitive disability may be easily distracted. Try not to interpret distraction as rudeness.

Do not expect all people to be able to read well. Some people may not read at all.

Comma, Semicolons, Colons
Quotation Marks
Abbreviations & Titles
Using “I” or “Me” and the Use of “Self” Pronouns
Double Adjectives
Transcribing Numbers
Separate and Joint Ownership
“Who” Versus “Whom”
How to use commas
Persuasive Writing

Persuasive Communication Strategy
Communicating Bad News
Communicating Bad News / TIps and Tricks
Communicating with People with Disabilities
Cross Cultural Communications
Types of Communication and Characteristics
Nonverbal Communications

India Facts: Economy, Population, Government, Business, & More

India Facts: History of India

India is officially named the Republic of India and is a country located in South Asia. The people of India have had a continuous civilization culture since 3300 BC., when the inhabitants of the Indus River valley developed an urban culture based on commerce and sustained by agricultural trade. India quickly became a center of important trade routes, cultural development, and vast empires. Despite invasions over the past 5000 years, Indian culture and society has been very resilient. In the earliest years of the country, the southern kingdoms remained more stable than the north and carried out trade involving spices and precious gems with Arabia, China, and Europe. From the 16th century onwards, several European countries including Portugal, Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom, started arriving as traders, later taking advantage of the relationships between kingdoms.

India Facts: Independence and Mahatma Gandhi

In the early twentieth century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress, and various revolutionary groups. The movement was mainly led by Mahatma Gandhi. India emerged as a modern nation-state on August 15, 1947 from British rule, when they went through an intense movement of social reforms and forged into a single nation. On January 26, 1950, they ratified a new Constitution and became a republic.

India Facts: Emerging World Superpower

Since their independence, India has seen violence and insurgencies in various parts of the country, but has maintained its unity and democracy. They also are a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations (at the time as part of British India). Significant economic reforms beginning in 1991, have transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. India is now considered to be an emerging world superpower.

India Facts: Government of India

India Facts: Largest Democracy in the World

India is referred to as the largest democracy in the world, by virtue of the fact that it has the largest electing population among democratic countries. The country has a federal form of government and a bicameral parliament operating under a Westminster-style parliamentary system. It has three branches of government, similar to that of the United States. The executive arm, which contains a Chief of State (President), Head of State (Prime Minister), and Council of Ministers or cabinet (appointed by the president), headed by the Prime Minister. The judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court which has one chief justice and 25 associate justices who are appointed by the president. The Supreme Court is headed by the Chief Justice. The legislature of India is the bicameral Parliament, which consists of the upper house (Council of States), and the lower house (House of People).

India Facts: Politics of India

For most of its independent history, India has been ruled by the Indian National Congress; a political party. India practices Hindi law and is home to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Indian National Congress, and Bharatiya Janata Parties. Since their independence, India has maintained cordial relationships with most nations. They took the lead during the 1950s in advocating the independence of all European colonies in Africa and Asia.

India Facts: The Cold War and India

During the Cold War, India tried to maintain its neutrality among nations. After the Sino-Indian War and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, India’s relationship with the Soviet Union warmed at the expense of ties with the United States and continued to remain so until the end of the Cold War. They have consistently refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to maintain sovereignty over its nuclear program despite criticism and military sanctions.

India Facts: Close Relationships with South America, Asia, and Africa

In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with developing nations of South America, Asia, and Africa. In more recent years, India has played an influential role in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). They have also been a long time supporter of the United Nations, with over 55,000 military and police personnel having served in 35 UN peace keeping operations over four continents. Since the 1990s, India has been considered an emerging power on the global stage, meaning it has increased influence on international affairs.

India Facts: India Economy

The economy of India is fourth largest in the world as measured by purchasing power parity or PPP, with a GDP of $3.6 trillion. When measured in exchange rates in relation to the US dollar, it is the twelfth largest economy in the world, with a GDP of over $785 billion, as calculated by the World Bank. India is the second fastest growing major economy in the world with a GDP growth rate of over 9%, and annual industrial production change of over 12%, as of the first quarter in 2006. Wealth distribution in India is fairly uneven; the top 10% of income groups earn an estimated 33% of all income. It is calculated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that by 2007, the Indian economy will be ranked third measured by PPP. Population below the poverty line is ranked at below 25% and as of 2005 the public debt exceeded 53%.

India Facts: Government Control of Economy

For most of its independent history they have followed a quasi-socialist approach, with strict government control over private sector participation, foreign trade, and foreign direct investment. Starting from 1991, India has gradually opened its markets through economic reforms by reducing government controls on foreign trade and investment. Privatization of public-owned industries and some sectors to private and foreign players have continued to be subject to political debate.

India Facts: Labor Force, Agriculture, Industries, and Oil. Import Commodities

India has a labor force of over 496 million of which 60% is employed in agriculture or agriculture-related industries which contributes to only about 22% of GDP, 17% in mainstream industry, and 23% in service industry. Their agricultural produce includes rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, tea, sugarcane, and potatoes. Major industries include textiles, chemicals, food processing, steel, transportation equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, and machinery. Electricity production is over 556 billion kWh (kilowatt-hour) and its electricity exports are 187 million kWh as of 2003. India’s oil production is 785,000 bbl/day (barrels per day) and their oil consumption exceeds 2.3 million bbl/day. The largest import commodities are crude oil, machinery, gems, fertilizer, and chemicals.

India Facts: Growth in Business Process Outsourcing

India’s large English speaking middle-class has contributed to the country’s growth in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). It is becoming a major base for US tech companies for future targeted research and development, including Google, IBM, and Microsoft. All this has helped the service sector to increase its share of the economy to approximately 50%.

India Facts: Major Trading Partners

The most important trading partners India deals with are the United States, China, UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Belgium, and the United Arab Emirates. They are a major exporter of financial and research and technology services as well.

India Facts: India Population, India People, Demographics

India Facts: Seventh-Largest, Second Most Populous, Language & Religion

India is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second most populous country, and has the largest democracy in the world. India borders Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. They are the second-most populous country in the world with an estimated 1.1 billion people as of 2006. Language and religion are determinants of social and political organizations within its diverse population. 81% of inhabitants are Hindu. India is also home to the second largest population of Muslims in the world with 12%, after Indonesia. Other religious groups include Christians, Buddhists, and Jews. The national average literacy rate is 64% (males 75% and females 54%). The state of Kerala leads the country with a literacy rate of approximately 94%.

India Facts: Sex Ratio, Median Age, Birth Rate & Growth Rate

Unlike the US, UK, and Australian Censuses; the national Census of India does not recognize racial or ethnic groups within themselves. India’s largest metropolitan areas are Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Delhi, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), Chennai (formerly Madras), Bangalore, and Hyderabad. The national sex ratio is 933 females per 1,000 males and the median age is 24 years. Birth rate is currently averaged at 22 births per 1,000. The total fertility rate (TFR) is above the world average; however the growth rate is decreasing in Southern India.

India Facts: Two Major Languages, Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Hindi

India is home to two major languages, Indo-Aryan; spoken by 74% of the population and Dravidian; spoken by 24% of the population. The Indian constitution recognizes a total of 23 official languages. Hindi and English are used by the Union Government of India for official purposes. The number of dialects in India is well over 1,600.

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