When you first meet someone who is blind, deaf, or in a wheelchair, what is your initial reaction? Curiosity? Sympathy? Awkwardness? If you experience any of these emotions, you are not alone. Chances are you don't regularly associate with someone who is disabled, so these feelings are quite common.
Having been blind since birth, I have encountered a wide range of reactions, from curious stares when i walk down street with a cane or holding someone's arm, to amazement at being able to feed and dress myself. Most people don't intend to be rude or insensitive, but just aren't sure what to expect. Here are four points to keep in mind if you should happen to meet a disabled person.
1. Disabled people can lead active lives. With few exceptions, a disability does not prevent someone from working, raising a family, or taking part in social activities. Many sports and recreation programs have been adapted to accommodate a person with a disability, including baseball, golf, water skiing, biking, and swimming. Instead of concentrating on disability, look at person same way you would any other acquaintance.
2. It's all right to ask questions. Many people are afraid of offending someone by asking about their disability. When meeting anyone for first time, it's natural to be curious about who they are, where they're from, and what they do for a living.
The same is true for a disabled person. Asking questions is usually acceptable, as long as you use common sense. Don't, for example, ask a blind person how he feeds and bathes himself. Instead, find out what equipment or techniques he uses in his job and at home, how he gets around town, how does Braille work, etc.