Ac­ces­si­ble Tourism Eti­quette

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL -

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:

• “In­con­ve­nienced”

• “Handi-ca­pa­ble”

• “Spe­cial”

• “In spite of his dis­abil­ity”

• “Over­came his hand­i­cap”


Avoid clichés.

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 • •

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