Policies & Advocacy
Persons with disabilities often don’t exercise their political power. Yet, explaining why disability rights issues are essential to the local, state, and national economy is vital to improving independence for persons with disabilities.
IL History & ADA
The Independent Living movement believes that people with disabilities have the same civil and human dignity rights as anyone else.
The movement's American history began in the 1850s when people with deafness began establishing local organizations to advocate for their interests. In the 1880s, these local groups merged into the National Association for the Deaf. The next 60 years saw the creation of a number of advocacy organizations, such as, the League of the Physically Handicapped, the National Federation of the Blind, the American Federation of the Physically Handicapped, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
The current independent living movement is linked with the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1962, UC Berkeley admitted its first student who had severe disabilities, Ed Roberts. By 1969, there were twelve students with severe disabilities. Since UC did not have accessible housing, these students lived in the Student Health Service infirmary at Cowell Hospital. These 12 students grew into a community based on shared experiences and challenges. Moreover, they began to view themselves not as patients, but as an oppressed minority and named themselves the "Rolling Quads".
The Rolling Quads protested the arbitrary restrictions placed on them by rehabilitation counselors. If a required class was on the third floor, they heard "that was too bad." There were no elevators. No accommodations were attempted and civil rights for persons with disabilities were few. The Rolling Quads and others advocated for the rights of all people with disabilities so that people with disabilities could interact on an equal basis, to make decisions about the course of their own lives.
An independent living model evolved which sought to bring people, especially those with disabilities, together with resources, advocacy, and life skills. Advocacy was seen as the most critical piece – to ensure the protection of our civil rights and educate the public about our needs. Life skills in both systems and self-advocacy was necessary so persons with disabilities could work towards enforcement and equality in individual situations as well as community situations. Ed Roberts and his colleagues set up the first independent living center, the Center for Independent Living (CIL), in Berkeley, California in 1972.
CIL is still going strong and is now part of the Ed Roberts Campus next to the Ashby BART station. Modeled after CIL in Berkeley, Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL) was organized in Hayward in 1979 by a group of people with disabilities. There are now 29 Independent Living Centers (ILCs) in California, over 400 in the United States, and a few in other countries.
The Independent Living Philosophy in ILCs promotes consumer control (people with disabilities involved in decision-making, service delivery, management, and establishment of the policy and direction of the center); self-help and self-advocacy; development of peer relations and peer role models; and equal access to services, programs, activities, resources, and facilities in the community. Core principles in the independent living movement are:
- Those who know best the needs of people with disabilities and how to meet those needs are people with disabilities;
- The needs of persons with disabilities can be met most effectively by comprehensive programs that advocate for the rights and needs of people with disabilities and provide a variety of supportive services;
- Persons with disabilities should be integrated as fully as possible into their community.
In response to these principles, independent living centers offer a wide variety of services. Four are essential to efforts of people with disabilities to live independently.
- Information and referral: Centers maintain comprehensive information files on availability in their communities of accessible housing, transportation, employment opportunities, rosters of persons available to serve as personal care attendants, interpreters for hearing impaired people, or readers for visually impaired people, and many other services.
- Independent living skills training: Centers provide training courses to help people with disabilities gain skills that would enable them to live more independently. Courses may include using various public transportation systems, managing a personal budget, dealing with insensitive and discriminatory behavior by members of the general public, and many other subjects.
- Peer counseling: Centers offer a service in which a person with a disability can work with other persons who have disabilities and who are living independently in the community. The objective is to explore options and to solve problems that sometimes occur for people with disabilities, for example, making adjustments to a newly acquired disability, experiencing changes in living arrangements, or learning to use community services more effectively.
Advocacy: Centers provide two kinds of advocacy:
(1) consumer advocacy, which involves center staff working with persons with disabilities to obtain necessary support services from other agencies in the community, and
(2) community advocacy, which involves center staff, board members, and volunteers initiating activities to make changes in the community that make it easier for all persons with disabilities to live more independently.
In addition, IL centers offer a number of other services, generally depending on specific needs of their consumers and lack of availability elsewhere in the community. Among the most frequently provided services are community education and other public information services, equipment repair, recreational activities, and home modifications.
The results of some of the efforts of these advocates, and those who followed, include:
- The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which first authorized independent living centers and programs, was signed into law.
- Many advocates consider Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 the nucleus of all ensuing progress in obtaining disability rights. Section 504 stated: No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Four years after The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was signed into law, the regulations for implementation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act were signed.
- The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. The ADA is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. Disability is defined by the ADA as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity."
- The ADA, as amended 2010. Section 707 of the new 2010 Standards adds specific technical requirements to ATMs for speech output, privacy, tactilely-discernible input controls, display screens, and Braille instructions to the general accessibility requirements set out in the 1991 Standards. The 1991 Standards require ATMs to be accessible to and independently usable by persons with visual impairments, but do not contain any technical specifications.
Hear the Issues
Disability Action Network members take action on all kinds of issues that affect the lives of people with disabilities, from a local level to the federal level. Here are some of the issues that concern the disability community.
Many people with disabilities get health care paid for by Medi-Cal (this is what California calls Medicaid) and Medicare. State budget cuts have led to these cuts in Medi-Cal over the past few years:
- Doctor's visits are limited to seven per year (a "soft cap" that a doctor can overrule)
- Prescription medication limited to six per month (except "life-saving drugs")
- Most optional benefits eliminated (including adult dental, podiatry, speech/physical/occupational therapy). Annual cap on remaining optional benefits (hearing aids, durable medical equipment) and wound care.
- High patient copayments for services, including doctor visits, pharmacy services, emergency room and hospital visits.
- No coverage for over-the-counter cough and cold medications and supplements.
- Medi-Cal assistance with paying Medicare Part B premium eliminated for Medi-Cal recipients with share-of-cost over $500/month (Part B premiums are about $96/month).
- People using Medi-Cal only are now required to join a managed care plan.
(Thank you to Wendy Peterson of the Senior Services Coalition for this information!)
DAN members are very concerned about cuts to Medi-Cal and advocate to stop these cuts and to restore services that have been cut.
There is a move on the state level to require people with disabilities on Medicaid to join a managed care plan. This means that you have a list of doctors and hospitals you can go to, and if you go to a doctor outside of that group, it will not be paid for. People with disabilities and seniors who have Medi-Cal ONLY (not Medicare) are now required to get health care through Alameda Alliance for Health or Blue Cross (with some exceptions). Soon, seniors and people with disabilities who have Medi-Cal AND Medicare may be required to join a managed care plan. There is talk in the state legislature about moving In-Home Supportive Services into managed care as well. DAN members are watching these changes and keeping an eye out for potential problems so that we can advocate for good health care. Click HERE to read the Senate report on the expansion of managed care, from February 23, 2012.
On a national level, the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2011, and this bill provides comprehensive health care reform. Click HERE for a clear one-page fact sheet about how the Affordable Care Act will affect people with disabilities and serious health conditions.
Personal Assistant Services
In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS)is a state-funded, county-run program that pays for personal assistant services such as dressing, bathing, and meal preparation to allow people with disabilities to live in their own homes rather than be forced into a nursing facility or hospital. For more information about how to get personal assistant services, talk to Esperanza at CRIL, or click HERE. With the state budget crisis, the legislature has cut IHSS in these ways:
- IHSS recipients are now required to get written certification from a medical provider that services are needed to avert out-of-home placement.
- 3.6% reduction in hours for the majority of IHSS recipients.
- Subsidy eliminated for IHSS recipients who must pay a monthly share-of-cost.
(Thanks to Wendy Peterson at the Senior Services Coalition for this information!)
DAN members speak out about the importance of IHSS and fight against further cuts.
Olmstead is the name of a Supreme Court decision from 1999 that said that people with disabilities have a right to live in their own homes and not in nursing homes. Olmstead is important because it means that government has a responsibility to make sure people get personal assistant services if needed! Click HERE to read more about Olmstead and what it means for people with disabilities.
Community Choice Act
People with disabilities want to live in their own homes but are often forced into nursing homes. Right now, this country has an institutional bias: states that receive Medicaid dollars are required to pay for nursing homes, but home and community-based services are optional. The Community Choice Act is a federal (national) bill that would give people a choice. Anyone who is eligible for nursing home services would be able to choose to receive services at their home and in the community instead. Check out ADAPT's page on the Community Choice Act for more information.
Community First Choice Option
The Community First Choice Option is part of federal health care reform (the Affordable Care Act) that expands states' ability to fund home and community-based services. States who use the Community First Choice Option can get more federal money for this, and they can expand programs to people with higher incomes and provide more services. Read more about the Community First Choice Option on the Families USA website.
The CLASS Act is a voluntary insurance program for long-term care. The CLASS Act is the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program. It passed as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2011, but it has not gone into effect. Read a news article about what happened to the CLASS Act.
Transportation has been named as a major priority for DAN members in 2012! Many people with disabilities do not drive or do not have cars and rely on public transit to get around. Over the last few years, with budget cuts, bus routes have been cut, schedules have been shortened, and fares have increased. DAN members advocate in their local communities for better public transit.
In the Tri-Valley, DAN members participate in the Wheels Accessible Advisory Committee (WAAC), part of the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority. Click here to read about the Wheels Accessible Advisory Committee. You can also read about WAAC on the Dublin website.
CRIL and the Disability Action Network work with a coalition of organizations committed to transit justice, through Urban Habitat. See Urban Habitat's website to read more about transit advocacy.
California has a budget shortfall, which can be filled by cutting or eliminating programs and services, such as Medi-Cal, SSI, In-Home Supportive Services, CalWorks, child care, and education, OR by increasing revenues through raising corporate taxes or other means, OR a combination of the two.
What you can do:
1) Call or write to your state legislators and tell them what you want. Click HERE for information on how to find your legislator.
2) Write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about how budget cuts affect you.
3) Come to the next Disability Action Network meeting to get involved.
Housing and Universal Design
Housing is a critical issue for CRIL and the Disability Action Network because there is nothing as basic as having a roof over your head. We advocate for affordable, accessible, integrated housing in a variety of ways.
DAN members advocate for affordability and accessibility housing when new housing is being approved within a city. In Pleasanton, for example, DAN members advocated for more universally designed apartments at Civic Square and they are currently working on affordability and accessibility in a new development to be built next to the BART station. If you know of a housing development being built, and you want to advocate for affordable and accessible housing, let us know!
CRIL and the Disability Action Network worked with Alameda County government in 2006 to pass a Reasonable Accommodations Ordinance. This ordinance makes it easier for homeowners to make their homes accessible without having to pay for permits or later remove the modifications. Read the policy HERE.
In California, a landlord is allowed to evict a tenant for no reason. It is very difficult to find an affordable place to live, and getting evicted with little time to find a new place can be very scary! Disability Action Network members advocated to extend the state law requiring landlords to provide 60 days notice for no-fault evictions, rather than 30, and they won! Read about this success HERE.
Universal design is a way of designing an environment to make it usable by everyone – people with and without disabilities, people of all ages and sizes. A universally designed home has a no-step entry, wider doorways and hallways, lever door handles and faucets, and a bathroom on the first floor. These features allow for anyone to come visit, whether a grandparent or a friend. Universal design allows people to "age-in-place," meaning that as they get older, they will be able to stay in their home without having to do expensive renovations or consider moving. CRIL and the Disability Action Network work to pass universal design ordinances in cities in our area, requiring developers to include or offer universal design features in homes they build.
Check out these materials on universal design:
- One-page fact sheet on universal design
- CRIL's universal design brochure
- News article on universal design
- Concrete Change website (http://concretechange.org)
In 2007, CRIL and the Disability Action Network successfully advocated for the passage of a universal design ordinance in the city of Dublin. See that policy and background information HERE.
In 2011, CRIL and the Disability Action Network worked with the City of Fremont to pass a universal design ordinance. The ordinance requires developers to offer universal design features to the purchaser. We would like to see a certain percentage of homes (if not all homes) built with universal design features, rather than customizing individual homes, but this ordinance is a step to educating homebuyers and developers about the benefits of universal design. See that policy HERE.
Street Safety and Access to Public Accommodations
CRIL is committed to building accessible and integrated communities. The Americans with Disabilities Act promises access to education, employment, sidewalks, parks, restaurants, stores, and transportation, but it is up to us to get the law enforced! Click HERE for a fact sheet about the ADA or check out www.ada.gov. When you see an access problem in your community, work with your local Disability Action Network members to get it resolved, and tell the business owner or city about the changes they should make.
The Tri-City Disability Action Network ran a Street Safety Campaign to get safer streets in Fremont! DAN members surveyed several intersections on a Saturday morning to determine whether the crossing signals allowed enough time for a person with a physical disability to get across the street, whether the crossing signal buttons and curbs were accessible, and whether the crossing signal was audible for blind people. Take a look at the Street Safety Report! DAN members presented the survey results to Fremont city staff and won a stop sign at a dangerous intersection! They also got staff to extend the length of time allowed for a person to get across the street at several intersections. Read about the Fremont Street Safety Campaign in the Fremont Bulletin.
Tri-Valley Disability Action Network members work with Pleasanton city staff to improve street and sidewalk access. They meet every quarter with staff to talk about needed improvements. Since 2008 hundreds of curb cuts have been put in or modified, and many more are on the way.
Talk to your representatives!
Voters elect officials to represent us at the local, state, and national levels. They make decisions about access, health care, schools, housing, and many other issues that affect our lives. And they are accountable to YOU, but only if you tell them what you want.
So tell them!
Your local City Council makes decisions about housing developments, environmental issues, smoking, street and sidewalk access, and more.
To reach your local City Council members:
- Hayward City Council
- San Leandro City Council
- Newark City Council
- Union City Council
- Fremont City Council
- Pleasanton City Council
- Dublin City Council
- Livermore City Council
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors makes decisions about social services in our county, including In-Home Supportive Services and Medi-Cal, along with other areas. For people that live in unincorporated areas, like Castro Valley, Ashland, Cherryland, or Fairview, the County Supervisors also work on street and sidewalk access and other local issues.
Alameda County Supervisors are:
District 1: Dublin, Livermore, most of Fremont
(510) 272-6691 or (925) 551-6995
District 2: Hayward, Union City, Newark, part of Fremont
(510) 272-6692 or (510) 259-1097
District 3: San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Alameda, part of Ashland, part of Oakland
(510) 272-6693 or (510) 278-0367
District 4: Castro Valley, Ashland, Cherryland, Fairview, Pleasanton, East Oakland
(510) 272-6694 or (510) 670-5717
District 5: Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, part of Oakland
Your State Senators and State Assemblymembers vote on the state budget, so they decide how much to fund social services, housing programs, child care, education, and other programs. They also vote on all kinds of bills, on everything from education to the environment. In the last couple of years, the state legislature voted for and passed the FAIR Education Act which requires schools to teach about the history of people with disabilities and other communities, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. They also passed a resolution for Ed Roberts Day, honoring a central figure in the independent living movement.
Your state legislators also have staff at their local (district) offices who can help you with any problems you may be having in the community, like dealing with a local health agency or finding out about a program.
Each person is represented by 1 State Senator and 1 State Assemblymember.
A good resource to find out about legislative bills is http://www.leginfo.ca.gov.
Legislators representing people in southern Alameda County are:
Senate District 9 (Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Dublin, Livermore, Oakland, Piedmont, Richmond, San Pablo, etc.)
1515 Clay Street, Suite 2202, Oakland CA 94612
(510) 286-1333 (District),
(916) 651-4009 (Capitol)
Senate District 10 (Hayward, San Leandro, Fremont, Union City, Newark, Pleasanton, Milpitas)
1057 MacArthur Blvd., Suite 206, San Leandro CA 94577
(510) 577-2310 (District),
(916) 651-4010 (Capitol)
15th District (Livermore, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Stockton, etc.)
2694 Bishop Drive, Suite 275, San Ramon CA 94583
(925) 328-1515 (District),
(916) 319-2015 (Capitol)
For more information and updates on future events please sign up for the e-newsletter by going to http://www.asmdc.org/members/a15/ or by calling (925) 328-1515.
18th District (San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Hayward, Castro Valley, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Union City)
22320 Foothill Blvd., Suite 540, Hayward CA 94541
(510) 583-8818 (District),
(916) 319-2018 (Capitol)
20th District (Fremont, Newark, Union City, Milpitas, and parts of San Jose, Pleasanton, Castro Valley, Hayward)
39510 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite 280, Fremont CA 94538
(510) 440-9030 (District),
(916) 319-2020 (Capitol)
To find your state legislator, go to: http://126.96.36.199/lmapsearch/framepage.asp
The federal government makes decisions about the federal budget, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, overseas activities, tax structure, and other issues. Each person is represented by one member of Congress and everyone in the state is represented by two members of the U.S. Senate.
The U.S. Senators representing California are:
1700 Montgomery St., Suite 240, San Francisco CA 94111
(415) 403-0100 (District),
(202) 224-3553 (Captiol)
One Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA
(415) 393-0707 (District),
(202) 224-3841 (Capitol)
The U.S. Congressmembers representing people in southern Alameda County are:
11th District (Pleasanton, Stockton, Tracy, part of Livermore)
5776 Stoneridge Mall Rd. #175, Pleasanton CA 94588 (925) 737-0727 (District),
(925) 932-8899 (District),
(202) 225-1880 (Capitol)
10th District (Livermore, Walnut Creek, Fairfield, etc.)
1981 N. Broadway, Suite 220, Walnut Creek CA 94596
You should also tell the President what you think! Hot issues at the national level have been Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California), Medicare, Social Security, and personal assistant services (IHSS in California).
It is recommended to email the President through his website.
You can also send a letter to:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Or you can call: (202) 456-1111 (Comments – voice)
(202) 456-1414 (Switchboard – voice)
(202) 456-6213 (Comments – TTY)
(202) 456-2121 (Visitor's Office – TTY)
2014 is a HUGE election year! Help us Get Out The Vote!
Politicians get elected by people who vote for them. They look at communities who are organized to vote, and who are unified in how they vote. The disability community can have a voice simply by voting! Our community has a very low rate of voting and we can change this!
Are you registered to vote?
If you're not sure if you're registered to vote at your current address, click HERE to find out.
Can I register to vote?
- Click HERE for the requirements for voter registration.
- If you are on probation, but not currently in prison or on parole, you CAN vote.
- If you are not yet 18 but WILL be 18 before the next election, you CAN register.
- If you have MOVED or CHANGED NAMES, you you need to register again!
To register to vote, stop at CRIL to fill out a form, or click here to register online.
Go get other people with disabilities registered to vote! Call CRIL to get trained in registering people to vote.
Once you are registered to vote, you are assigned a specific polling place very near to your house.
Work with the Disability Action Network to participate in and help organize voter education events, candidates forums, and other community events. Click HERE to get involved in DAN.
In 2012, there will be a Primary Election on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 and a General Election on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. These are both important elections and your voice is needed in both!
In June, we will be voting on:
- Presidential Primary
- U.S. Senate
- U.S. Representatives
- State Senate
- State Assembly
- County Board of Supervisors
- Hayward City Council
In November, we will be voting on;
- U.S. President
- State Senate
- State Assembly
- City Council Races
- Ballot initiatives
You can show up at the polls or vote by mail. To sign up to vote by mail, go to http://www.acgov.org/rov/votebymail.htm.
In 2012, California has some changes in how we vote! Read about the new Top-Two Open Primary Act.
Polling Place Access
It is your right to vote! Voting should be accessible and independent. Every polling place is required to have an accessible electronic voting machine that has a touch screen and audio capability. Learn about laws that protect voters with disabilities HERE. If you have any problems when you go to the polls, ask for the poll inspector, and then contact the Registrar of Voters and Disability Rights California.
For more information:▴ Back to Top
Legislation & Supreme Court Decisions
Get familiar with the laws that provide rights for people with disabilities!
Click for a Guide to Disability Rights Laws HERE for a Guide to Disability Rights Laws.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is considered landmark civil rights legislation. Spearheaded by the late The ADA Amendments Act, passed in 2008, clarifies who is covered by the ADA, making sure that people with disabilities are protected from discrimination. Read a fact sheet HERE.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act gives every child with a disability the right to a free and appropriate public education. The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund can tell you all about IDEA and works with parents to make sure children with disabilities get the education they need. You can also read about IDEA HERE.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 includes a key portion, called Section 504, which states that any program receiving federal funding must provide access to people with disabilities. In the longest sit-in in U.S. history, people with disabilities took over the Federal Building in San Francisco in 1977 for more than a month, to demand that regulations for Section 504 be signed. They won, and now this law is honored and enforced! Read a summary of the Rehab Act HERE. Click HERE to read all about the 504 sit-in.
Olmstead is the name of a Supreme Court decision from 1999 that said that people with disabilities have a right to live in their own homes and not in nursing homes. The Olmstead decision means that government has a responsibility to make sure people get personal assistant services if needed! Click HERE to read more about Olmstead and what it means for people with disabilities.
The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2011, provides comprehensive health care reform. Click HERE for a clear one-page fact sheet about how the Affordable Care Act will affect people with disabilities and serious health conditions.
The FAIR Education Act says that schools must teach students about the history of the disability rights movement and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights movement. This was a major victory won by youth with disabilities in California, including members of the Disability Action Network for Youth! Read all about it HERE.
The Fair Housing Amendments Act, passed in 1988, adds on to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, to prohibit housing discrimination based on disability. Read about it HERE. United Spinal put out a great information packet about your rights with fair housing.▴ Back to Top
Connect with Community Partners
Alameda County Senior Services Coalition
California Foundation for Independent Living Centers:
Center for Independent Living in Berkeley:
Hayward CAN, through South Hayward Parish
Health and Human Services Network of California
Disability Rights California:
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund:
United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County
Disability History & Philosophy
Disability History Resources
The Disability Social History Project has incredible information about the history of the disability rights movement, plus links to all kinds of subjects, including the history of deaf people, people of color with disabilities, and LGBTQ people with disabilities.
Beyond Affliction: The Disability History Project (a radio project from National Public Radio)
Disability Rights Awareness
Did you know that one in five people has some kind of disability?
- That's the country's largest minority.
- There are all kinds of disabilities, such as: learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, deaf or hard of hearing, blind or visually-impaired, mental health disabilities, and physical disabilities.
Have you heard that disability is not always considered a bad thing?
- People with disabilities are speaking up more and more, saying that disability does not have to be a bad thing.
- The "social model" of disability says it is societal attitudes and barriers that keep people with disabilities from fully participating in society and having equal opportunities.
- The traditional "medical model" of disability sees a disability as an individual medical problem to be cured, prevented, or mitigated to the greatest extent possible.
- Many people with disabilities are saying that they do not need to be cured and instead take pride in their disabilities.
- The disability community has its own culture! With a history, sense of community, arts, sports, etc.
How to talk about disability
- Some prefer "person-first" language: a person with a disability, a person who is blind.
- Avoid negative words like afflicted, suffers from, invalid, incapacitated, handicapped, victim.
- Rather than "wheelchair-bound" or "confined to a wheelchair," use "uses a wheelchair."
- People with disabilities are no more "brave" or "special" than anyone else.
- Speak directly to the person, rather than through their companion or sign language interpreter.
- Have alternative communication formats readily available (large print, audiotapes, written material) – keep in mind that people may not always ask for it!
- Be aware of non-apparent/hidden/invisible disabilities.
Read more about disability!
10 Simple Communication Rules – the "do's" and "don'ts" for Communicating With People With Disabilities
1. Speak directly to the person rather than through a companion or sign language interpreter who may be present.
2. Offer to shake hands. People with limited hand use or an artificial limb can usually shake hands, and offering the left is an acceptable greeting.
3. Always identify yourself and others who may be with you when meeting someone with a visual disability. When talking in groups remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking. Ask if you can describe something to a person with a visual disability.
4. If you offer to help, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen or ask for instructions. Ask the person how you can assist them. Do not assume you know. Remember that they live with their disability. They know what they need better than anyone.
5. Address people with disabilities by their first names, only when extending that same familiarity to all others. Never patronize people in wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulders.
6. Do not lean against or hang on someone's wheelchair. Remember that people with disabilities treat their chairs as extensions of their bodies. And so do people with guide dogs and help dogs. Never distract a work animal from their job without the owner's permission.
7. Listen carefully when talking with people who have difficulty speaking and wait for them to finish. If necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, or a nod of the head. Never pretend to understand; instead repeat what you have understood and allow the person to respond.
8. Place yourself at eye level when speaking with someone in a wheelchair or on crutches.
9. Tap a person who has a hearing disability on the shoulder or wave your hands to get his/her attention. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively to establish if the person can read lips. If so, try to face the light source and keep hand and food away from your mouth when speaking. If a person is wearing a hearing aid, don't assume that they have the ability to discriminate your speaking voice. Never shout at a person. Just speak in a normal tone of voice.
Don't be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions such as "See you later" or "Did you hear about?" that seems to relate to a person's disability. Adapted from the United Cerebral Palsy "The Ten Commandments of Communicating With People With Disabilities". A humorous look at the "do's" and "don'ts" of communicating with people with disabilities. This 30 minute tape is available to borrow from the Commission on Disabilities (an excellent training tool for staff).▴ Back to Top
Get added to the Disability Action Network email list! Send an email to Dolores Tejada through our Contact Us page: Systems Change & Community Organizing.
Join the Justice For All email list, put out by American Association of People with Disabilities. This is a wonderful resource to keep you informed about national events, policies, and actions in the disability community. Click HERE to read more and subscribe.
Join the California Disability Community Action Network, an email list put out by Marty Omoto, about state budget policies, legislation, and events that affect Californians with disabilities. Click HERE to read more and subscribe.
Join Steve Gold’s listserv to get detailed, up-to-date policy information about the ADA, housing, health care, and other issues affecting people with disabilities. Click HERE to get more information and find out how to subscribe. (http://www.stevegoldada.com/)▴ Back to Top
Advocacy Resources & Policies:
- Visitability: The Way Of The Future In Home Building (PDF - 784K)
- City of Dublin: Universal Design Ordinance (PDF - 1.1MB)
- Reasonable Accommodations Ordinance (PDF - 121K)
- Street Safety Article (PDF - 47K)
- Street Safety Report (PDF - 5.4MB)
- Universal Design: Homes for All Ages (PDF - 5.6MB)
- Universal Design Flyer (PDF - 834K)
- ADA Amendments Act.pdf (PDF - 69KB)
- ADA Fact Sheet (PDF - 69KB)