There can be a lot of questions when it comes to properly interacting with someone who has a disability. It can easily come across like they’re being treated differently than everyone else.
KX News set out to debunk some of these common misconceptions.
This is so important, because, as w learned from a member of the State Independent Living Council today, 20 percent of North Dakotans say they have some type of disability.
We spent the afternoon at an ADA workshop to learn directly from those affected by these misunderstandings.
Dakota Center for Independent Living Director Royce Schultze says we take disability too seriously.
He adds, “It’s all you gotta do, is talk person to person. I think they’re scared to, that they might do something wrong, say something wrong.”
I heard from several people here, that the most frustrating thing is that people often don’t talk directly to them, but instead, to another person with them.
Schultze shares, “I’ve been in hotels before where they have the high counters, and if I got somebody with me, they talk to that person instead of me. That happens pretty regular. I usually wave my hands and say, ‘I’m down here, I’m the one that paid for this, you know.”
We should never assume someone isn’t their own caretaker, or that they can’t open a door themselves.
Think of a wheelchair as a part of that person, you wouldn’t touch someone without asking. It’s the same thing, but it is nice to ask.
State Independent Living Council Member, Russ Cusack adds, “And don’t worry if you make an error in communicating with a person with a disability, that’s perfectly fine. People with disabilities are like everybody else: pretty forgiving.”
Which is obvious. Everyone here laughed as the presenter talked about common screw-ups.
Human Resource professionals were here too, to make sure the workplace is an understanding environment.
Human Resource Professional Lynn Burgard shares, “We want to provide them with accommodations so they can perform the essential functions and duties of the job.”
Schultze explains, “The majority of them, it’s going to cost 50 bucks or less, to accommodate them.”
Cusack adds, “They’re an often over-looked labor source.”
The bottom line from Burgard: “Just ask if you’re unsure of anything, and just treat people the way you want to be treated.”
Schultze says accessibility is his biggest barrier, including deteriorating ramps in downtown areas.
It’s not something the average person notices unless they’re looking, but it’s crucial.