Don’t shy away from using the word “disabled.”

Shying away from it implies a pejorative perspective of disability. In reality, the disabled community would most likely like able-bodied individuals to rethink the negative stigma around being a disabled person.

Being disabled does not mean someone is unable to do something. It means they are differently abled; they can do what an able-bodied person can, but they need a different environment to succeed. It’s up to their loved ones and their society to provide this environment.

If you live with a disabled individual, keep reading to learn about the best ways to care for that person.

01. Seek to Understand

Disabilities are complex. The needs of someone struggling with ADHD are different from someone who is deaf.

Your first step should be to understand your loved one. Educate yourself on your loved one’s disability. It takes a couple of hours at most and it’s much better than trying to make assumptions about their needs.

02. Help Them With Bureaucracy

Often, there are ludicrous barriers between the disabled community and accessing the resources they need.

For example, someone with ADHD might be faced with mountains of paperwork they are unable to complete to receive benefits or medical insurance.

If you’re neurotypical and you can help with these kinds of problems, please volunteer. Otherwise, you can access a list of disability lawyers linked here.

03. Talking Directly

If you see an individual in a wheelchair accompanied by a caretaker, don’t just ignore the person in the wheelchair to talk to the caretaker. This is one of the most egregious mistakes you can make. If you catch yourself doing this, you may need to evaluate whether you have an inherent prejudice against disabled individuals.

Imagine if you were walking with a friend. Someone comes up and starts talking to your friend about you even though you’re right there. Imagine how that must feel, and don’t be that person.

04. Create Accessible Spaces

Are you an employer wondering how to make your workplace more accessible?

Are you setting up a meeting with someone who has a disability? If so, you should prioritize accommodating them.

If you’re meeting at a particular venue, make sure to forward instructions on accessibility options. If you don’t know how to find these, confirm with the purveyor of the venue or change venues.

05. Communicate

If you don’t know what kind of accommodations are needed, ask and don’t assume.  The worst you can do is avoid communication.

Yes, maybe you feel awkward about interacting with someone who has a disability. That’s normal, but you need to acknowledge the way you’re feeling and overcome it. If you prefer others communicate their needs to you, chances are others feel the same way.

How to Procure Help for a Disabled Person

In summary, supporting the disabled person in your life is about being an active listener, communicator, and learner.

Listen to them about their disability. Be proactive about learning about their disability. Communicate with them frankly about their needs, your own needs, and how you can support them.

It’s that simple.