Accessible Tourism Etiquette
How does one communicate with people with disabilities? What language should one use to write or talk about people with disabilities? What is the etiquette when meeting a blind person or a wheelchair user? How much can one expect of a person with a disability, and what help should be given or offered? To provide answers to these questions, the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA) has an informative booklet aptly titled ‘Myths, Manners, Do's & Don'ts of Disability'.
“Many people without disabilities will have felt shy or embarrassed when meeting people with disabilities. People tend to either blurt out commonly used but discriminatory language, or tie themselves up in knots trying not to offend. That is why QASA is proud to have published the Sawubona Disability booklet,” says Ari Seirlis, CEO of QASA.
Tourism Tattler has reproduced the QASA booklet for on-screen viewing (flip-page format) here or for quick downloading (PDF 2.7MB) here.
The Language of Disability
The language of disability has been changing for quite a while, and it continues to change. This is a vitally important issue. Individuals with disabilities are considered to be disabled as a result of society's discrimination, of which language is a big part.
Mainly due to ignorance, many incorrect terms and phrases are used to describe disabilities and people who have disabilities. However, people are becoming increasingly aware of the way in which the language used to refer to disability can reinforce negative stereotypes, even without the speaker realising it. Certain words or phrases may give offence. Avoid using language that suggests that disabled people are always frail or dependent on others, or which makes disabled people objects of pity, such as “suffers from” or “a victim of”.
It is accepted practice that phrases should, if possible, put the person first, for example “people with disabilities” rather than “disabled people”.
Although there are no concrete rules, it is helpful to understand why some terms are preferred to others.
Inappropriate terms and phrases include:
• “In spite of his disability”
• “Overcame his handicap”
Do not communicate your admiration or pity purely on account of a person's disability.
Each person you meet is an individual and may prefer the use of different or specific terminology.
Disability terminology and the disability community are constantly evolving.
Treat a person in an entirely non-judgmental manner Restrain your curiosity: if you meet a person with a disability for the first time, don't immediately ask them “what happened to you?”
Be confident and relax – If you feel embarrassed or you are unsure of what exactly to do, don't worry. It is quite normal to be nervous of doing the “wrong” thing, but your efforts will more than likely be appreciated.
Always be patient – Some disabled people need a little more time than usual for everyday tasks such as entering a building or understanding the answer to a query.
Look beyond the disability – There is a person in front of you, not a disability.
Important to acknowledge – The environment within which a person with a disability operates is often the disabling element. For more information visit www.qasa.co.za • •