People First: Communicating With People with Disabilities

According to the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, “People with disabilities are people first. They are not defined by their condition or diseases.”

Including You is brought to you by the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

The DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties goes on to note, “Lack of awareness about disabilities can lead to unintended stereotypes and discrimination. The way we view and communicate with and about people with disabilities shapes our relationships. The way we refer to people with disabilities in our communication is important. For example, a person is not an “epileptic” but rather a “person who has epilepsy.” Putting the person first in our communications is not “political correctness,” it is showing respect for the dignity of the individual.”

Approach people with disabilities as you would anyone else and speak directly and clearly. Treat adults as adults and refrain from using patronizing or condescending language.


  • Do not make decisions or assume a person’s needs
  • Do not assume a person needs help– always ask first
  • Speak directly to the person, not to their interpreter or companion
  • Be considerate of a person’s service animal- do not pet or play with working animals
  • A person’s equipment (i.e., wheelchair) is a part of their personal space
  • If you are unsure how to interact with a person with a disability, simply and politely ask

The Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities (TuscBDD) has resources for children and adults with disabilities. TuscBDD provides Early Intervention for children birth to three years old, Service and Support Administration for people of all ages, family support services, family mentorship, and more! To learn more about these serves and others, visit TuscBDD online at

For more information on communicating with people with disabilities visit the following sites:

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