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10 Tips for communicating with members

Advisors have the privilege of working closely with Aktion Club members. Of course, all of us who work with Aktion Club also have a duty to communicate respectfully and appropriately manner, and we must set the example for those around us. So we’re providing 10 helpful tips on communication. We encourage you to check them out—and share them with others! 
  1. Speak directly to the person, rather than through a companion (or a sign language interpreter who may be present).
  2. Offer to shake hands when introduced. People with limited hand use or an artificial limb can usually shake hands. (Offering the left hand is an acceptable greeting.)
  3. Always identify yourself, and others who may be with you, when meeting someone with a visual disability. When conversing in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking. When dining with a friend who has a visual disability, ask whether you can describe what is on his or her plate.
  4. If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen or ask for instructions.
  5. Treat adults as adults. Address people with disabilities by their first names only when you’re extending that same familiarity to all others. Do not refer to adults (for instance, Aktion Club members) as “kids.” Never patronize people in wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.
  6. Do not lean against or hang on someone’s wheelchair or pet a service animal. People with disabilities treat their chairs as extensions of their bodies. People with guide dogs and help dogs do the same with those animals—so don’t distract a service animal without the owner’s permission.
  7. Listen attentively 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 if you don’t understand; 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. Lightly tap a person who has a hearing disability on the shoulder or gently wave your  hand to get his or her attention. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively to establish whether he or she can read your lips. If so, try to face the light source and keep hands, drinks and food away from your mouth when speaking. If a person is wearing a hearing aid, don’t assume that they can distinguish your speaking voice.  Never shout at a person. Just speak in a normal tone.
  10. Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions such as “See you later” or “Did you hear about this?” that seem to ignore a person’s disability.
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