New Resource from TN Disability Coalition: Disability Etiquette Guide

By Hannah Kehrer, Communications Coordinator, Tennessee Disability Coalition

People with disabilities are just like everyone else. We deserve dignity, respect, and the opportunity to be treated equally. But sometimes it can be difficult to know how to interact with people with disabilities if you lack experience.

We get it. Knowing what to say and how to act can be challenging. That's where the Tennessee Disability Coalition's “Disability Etiquette Guide” comes into play.

The goal of TDC's Disability Etiquette Guide is to help equip and empower everyone; whether you're a part of the disability community or not. Don't let the fear of striking out stop you from getting to know us…because people with disabilities are pretty cool!

While our Disability Etiquette Guide is not a comprehensive list of what to do when interacting with people with disabilities, it is a great introduction to our diverse community. Inside, you'll find helpful guidelines to keep in mind as you navigate interactions with people with disabilities in everyday life.

Why are we releasing a Disability Etiquette Guide? The way we speak about, and to, people with disabilities matters. Life for people with disabilities has greatly improved, but some things take longer to change. That includes things like attitudes, perceptions, and the language we use. When folks use outdated language to describe people with disabilities, it can not only be offensive, but also perpetuates old, untrue, and harmful stereotypes.

Every person with a disability has a unique experience. In fact, even people with the same disability have individual needs and experiences. So, with the unique nature of the disability community, and the fact that language is ever-evolving, it would be impossible to cover everything. But everyone has to start somewhere!

Disability is NOT a bad word. Disability is part of our identity, and we are proud to be a part of the disability community. So, take a breath, flip through our guide, and remember that cultivating diversity in your community means including people with disabilities.

Visit our website to access the TDC’s Disability Etiquette Guide: can select between PDF, text-only, large print and Spanish versions).

Topics inside our Disability Etiquette Guide include:

  1. Meeting a person with a disability.
  2. Interacting with a person who uses mobility aids like walkers, wheelchairs, etc.
  3. Meeting a person with a disability that affects their speech.
  4. Communicating with someone who is Deaf or uses an assisted hearing device.
  5. Interacting with someone who is neurodivergent.
  6. Meeting someone with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  7. Interacting with someone who lives with a mental illness.
  8. Engaging with someone who is blind or has a disability that affects vision.
  9. Service animals.
  10. Ways to make your events and meetings more inclusive for people with disabilities.
  11. Using appropriate language.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: If any of the terms above are unfamiliar – read the Coalition’s guide to learn more!) 

The Tennessee Disability Coalition is an alliance of organizations and individuals across Tennessee who work together to improve the lives of Tennesseans with disabilities.

Text TEAMWORK to 72690 to receive Tennessee disability policy updates and alerts sent directly to your phone! Message & Data rates may apply. Avg. 1-4/message per week.

Hannah Kehrer joined the Tennessee Disability Coalition in October of 2021. In her role, she supports the communications team with outreach, engagement, and storytelling. She's also responsible for TDC's social media presence, video production, and digital content. Hannah previously worked with advocates at the state and federal levels to fight for causes like Medicaid expansion and keeping youth from being criminally tried as adults. She's a fierce, passionate social justice advocate and is excited to work with the TDC to support and empower Tennesseans with disabilities. Hannah is originally from Texas and will be sure to let everyone know! She graduated from Belmont University with a Bachelor of Social Work.