Communication: Speech (pp.207-218)
4. Understanding Communication of Persons with Disabilities as Cultural Communication
4.1 (a) A person without disability does not actually ponder over which term to use: “disabled person” or a “person with disability” while these two terms sound differently for a person with disability. The problem is that healthy people see people with disabilities as dependent and helpless while people with disability perceive themselves as full members of a society having some health issues. Disability is just a difference for the people who have it but it is perceived as abnormality or deficiency by healthy people (Samovar, Porter and McDaniel, 2010).
4.2 (b) It is important to distinguish between disability and handicap. Both of the terms reflect the relationship between disabled persons and society. A disability may affect the following life functions: self-care, mobility, employment, communication, social relationship. A disability becomes handicap when social or physical environment interacts with it hampering some aspects of the person’s life. It happens when, for example, buildings or transportation is not accessible for wheel-chairs. Another constraint is connected with communication and social relationship. Ablebodied persons usually try to distance from a disabled person during the conversation or trying to make the conversation short, avoid eye contact or feeling awkward to mention disability. Thus, disability becomes a handicap in the society.
4.3 (c) The authors suggested that persons with disabilities must not be distinguished from other people by sign of disability. All the people have their distinctive features which may not be as obvious as disability. For example, a person with disability may have better memory or analytical skills than a person without disabilities (Samovar, Porter and McDaniel, 2010).
4.4 (d) Ablebodied people feel uncomfortable talking to disabled persons because of being afraid to hurt their feelings. This is a reason why an ablebodied person may feel too self-conscious, rigid or self-controlled when addressing a person with disability. Psychological barriers are difficult to overcome in the society where so much importance attached to physical attractiveness. It is also difficult to substitute well-established opinion with another point of view (Samovar, Porter and McDaniel, 2010).
4.5 (e) Stereotypes raised in a society impede effective communication between ablebodied people and the persons with disabilities. There is an opinion that people with disabilities are helpless, dependent and require special attention even if they do not ask about any help. The society does not stress individuality in a person with disability being focused on physical attractiveness.
4.6 (f) There three phases of acculturation of those who became disabled: redefinition of the self as a part of “new” culture, redefinition the initial concept of disability, redefinition disability for the dominant culture. Three phases of acculturation are similar to other life experiences, for example, when someone changes location, emigrates or experiences any other changes in his or her social environment.
4.7 (g) When communicating with persons having disability it is important to keep up with certain rules. It is essential do not:
assume that a disabled person cannot speak or do something for him- or herself;
impose one’s help for such persons when there is no need in it;
avoid communication and eye contact because of feeling uncomfortable communicating such people;
use terms “handicapped”, “physically challenged” or other similar terms unless one was asked to do so;
assume that disability defines a person.
One is encouraged to communicate people with disability in the following way:
assume persons with disabilities can serve him- or herself unless one is told otherwise;
let them freedom of choice what to do or when to do something making them able to control the situation;
remember that the person with disability had experienced certain discomfort before and understand his or her feelings;
use the term “the person with disability” rather than the term “disabled person” stressing the person first and then introducing disability;
treat them as persons first rather than “disabled persons”; focus on person’s characteristics rather than physical appearance (Samovar, Porter and McDaniel, 2010).
Samovar, L. A., Porter, R. E., & McDaniel, E. R. (2010). Intercultural communication. (12th Ed.). Boston: Wadsworth Cengage.