I recently read that since the start of the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, over 17,ooo American soldiers have been catastrophically wounded, and the military has treated 1,559 amputee soldiers, many who are double amputees. With advances in better protected vehicles, body armor and improved medical care, more soldiers who would have been killed in the past are now wounded amputees. There are more people now than at any other time in history who are working to overcome the limitations imposed by disabilities. (World Magazine, “Walking Wounded,” by Edward Lee Pitts, 11/17/2012.)
As a former soldier and now as an attorney who helps people navigate through the insurance claims process after having sustained catastrophic injuries from vehicle or workplace accidents, I am particularly interested in and well aware of the impact such injuries have on an injured person’s future and family. As families and friends prepare for holiday gatherings, here are some tips for putting others at ease.
The following are some courtesy tips provided by the United Spinal Association:
- Put the person first: say “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person;” say “wheelchair user” rather than “wheelchair bound” or “confined to a wheelchair.” The wheelchair enables the person to get around and participate in society.
- Always speak directly to the person with the disability, not just to their companion or aide. Respect their privacy and do not make their disability the topic of conversation.
- Avoid outdated terms like “handicapped” or “crippled.” Also avoid euphemistic jargon like “differently abled.”
- Ask before you help: just because someone has a disability, don’t assume they need help. Adults with disabilities want to be treated as independent people. Only offer assistance if the person seems to need it.
- Avoid touching a person’s wheelchair, scooter, or cane. It is considered part of their personal space.
- Never lean over a person in a wheelchair to shake someone else’s hand.
- Never, ever, use a person in a wheelchair to hold people’s coats or set your drink on their desktop. (Surprisingly enough, some people do these things.)
No matter how a person’s catastrophic injury occurred, sensitivity and respect is crucial in our interactions with people with disabilities, just as it is with everyone else we encounter.
Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Free books — Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families.
Related Article: Rules of the Road for Motorized Wheelchairs