Making Your Communications Friendly for the Differently Abled

The ability to communicate is core to the human experience, especially when forming social relationships. Inclusivity within communication should allow everyone to express thoughts, respond to things they learn, and distinguish themselves from others, especially since communication plays a vital role with one’s identity. Within the workplace, and everywhere, it is important to consider communications, and how it affects those with differing abilities.

Differently-abled individuals may find it harder to communicate in social settings, especially when the environment does not assist them in fulfilling their social needs. These individuals may also find it harder to access tools that allow them to communicate with people from a distance. To create an inclusive work environment, abled individuals should consider alternatives that can create better communication, and that are easily applied, making the office more welcoming for all.

Work Environment

Everyone considers communication within the work environment as crucial. Since good communication determines an individual’s ability to perform well in one’s job, many prioritize the way they communicate with their employer, peers, and customers. Returning to the idea of utilizing the technology, employers could provide tools such as: purchasing enlarged keyboards containing braille, using speech recognition apps programmed in desktops, applying sign-language technology, and more. Also, employees who assist differently-abled customers should be mindful of how they communicate. Differently-abled customers can be sensitive to tone, hand gestures, and even physical touch. Employees should also be educated on the various conditions a differently-abled individuals may have, in order best accomodate.

Communication with those who have difficulty hearing

Individuals who are differently-abled with hearing may depend on gestures and eye contact to communicate with others. Abled individuals should be aware of the preferences these individuals have in communicating. If the abled individual can use sign language, he/she/they still need to ask the individual who is differently abled whether they have a preference in sign language, writing, or speaking. However, individuals who have not learned sign language can also communicate with the differently abled by looking at them while speaking clearly. Some individuals with difficulties hearing can decipher words spoken to them by lip-reading. Abled individuals should also be aware of their tone and speed when talking to those who are differently-abled, as it might distract from understanding spoken words. 

Communication for those who have difficulty seeing

Abled individuals should identify themselves, using their name and physical position when speaking to those who have difficulties seeing. Simple cues such as “Hi. My name is Sarah, and I am currently facing you as I talk” allow those who are differently-abled to identify the person trying to communicate to them. Abled individuals should also use a calm and normal tone when speaking with the differently-abled, which can signify whether the speaker has moved, or wishes to end a sentence. Visually impaired individuals may also rely on those who can guide them for walking in a particular direction. Abled individuals could offer their hand, or signify the desired destination, by vocally expressing the specified distance to those who are visually impaired. 

Communication for those who have difficulty with speech 

Individuals who have difficulty with speech require more time than others during communication. Abled individuals should provide their utmost attention by maintaining eye contact. This method allows one to understand that the listener is listening to their every word. Abled individuals should also try to keep an encouraging tone when communicating by repeating the words they know, and by avoiding the urge to correct the speaker. Abled individuals could also try asking “yes or no” questions that only require a head nod or a simple affirmation to assist those who are differently abled.

Being aware and informed

By being aware of the terminologies you use in identifying differently-abled individuals, you are providing them with a safe environment, in which they can grow as an individual. Remember that the most important thing is perceiving them like any other person. Despite the extra steps you may need to take to ensure the listener can comprehend what you are communicating, this allows you to form a deeper relationship.

Some may require different ways of communicating with you, or others. It is important empathetic in your communications and understand that everyone can achieve the same goals in the workplace.  By opening up the ways your business and employees communicate, you open your workplace up to more diversity, inclusion, and success!

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