Living with disability can have its challenges, and for non-disabled people these challenges will never be experienced. However, by having an understanding and an empathetic consideration of these challenges, those living with disability in our communities can feel both more supported and included. 

Don’t assume

You should never assume that a person with disability needs help. Many people with disability are far more independent than you realise, and pre-empting that they need assistance – even if well intended – can come across as condescending. A person with disability is an expert on what their own needs are, and will most likely ask for assistance if they require it. 

Have awareness of their personal space

This is particularly important for people who require a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair walker, or cane. They may need a little extra room when navigating public spaces, so be courteous enough to provide this. It is also important to note to never push someone’s wheelchair without them requesting you to, as this is an infringement of their personal space. 

Educate yourself

This is particularly important if you live or work with someone with disability. By simply learning more about their disability, you can better understand what their everyday needs are. It will give you greater insight into the type of challenges they face – and how you can be a physical and emotional support during these challenges. 

Be accommodating

People with disability have different needs to people without disability. For example, as an employer you may have to make reasonable adjustments if an employee has disability, in order for them to perform the duties of their job. These adjustments may extend to a home setting, where a person requires special equipment and technologies in order to live comfortably. 

Always consider accessibility 

When meeting a person with disability, consider whether your suggested meeting place is accessible for them. For a person without disability, accessibility is something they typically take for granted, so it is easier for them to forget that for a person with disability that accessibility is a consideration. For a person with mobility related disability, they may require a ramp or adequate wheelchair access. For a person with visual impairments, they may require wider doorways or ideally meet in places on ground level. This is particularly relevant if you are an employer asking your employee with disability to attend a meeting which is not at the usual office space. You must make sure the location is accessible, and make arrangements for the person to be able to attend and participate fully, without them asking for it. 

Be flexible towards the needs of spouses and family members

Some people with disability require hands-on support from their spouses and/or family members. Due to this, spouses and family members may require flexible work arrangements – whether this be working part time or working from home. As an employer, you should be considerate of this fact and be accommodating. This will not only benefit the person with disability, but will allow their spouse or family member to remain in the workforce. 

Engage with disability support services 

In Australia, there is a scheme called the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which has a primary goal of providing funding to those with disability to access vital support services. These support services fall under the following categories;

  • Assistance with daily life
  • Transport
  • Consumables
  • Assistance with social and community participation
  • Assistive technology
  • Home modifications
  • Coordination of supports
  • Improved living arrangements
  • Increased social and community participation
  • Finding and keeping a job
  • Improved relationships
  • Improved health and wellbeing
  • Improved learning
  • Improved life choices
  • Improved daily living 

These categories have been selected to help a person with disability live a full and more independent life. 

Individuals select and pay for disability services which are recommended in their customised NDIS plan. It is helpful to engage with plan management services, where the client will be allocated a NDIS plan manager. This plan manager will assist the client with navigating their NDIS plan, and ensure that they are getting the most out of their NDIS funding. 

If somebody you know with disability is having difficulty with navigating their NDIS plan, you can support them by connecting them with a reputable NDIS plan management service.

In summary

By applying these above strategies and considerations, you will be able to contribute to a more inclusive community. It is so important to embrace diversity, and to have understanding and empathy towards those with disability both now and in the future.