People who have disabilities often face a frustrating and exhausting world. Their everyday lives can be difficult because of the physical barriers they’ve had to deal with their whole life or social stigmas that make it hard for them to live as independently as everyone else. They may have certain challenges in their day-to-day life -but they still want to be treated as equals and included in society. One way to do this is through small acts of kindness and empathy. It can be hard for people with disabilities -whether physical or mental -to navigate the world on their own terms because there are so many societal barriers put in place. So here are some simple ways that you can empower those living with disabilities:

5 Ways You Can Help Persons Living with Disability

1) Respect boundaries

Ask before touching anyone with a sensory impairment and get verbal consent before taking photos of them or sharing pictures online without permission. People living with disabilities are also more likely to have experienced sexual abuse; be mindful of how you touch them, especially in private areas.

People with mental health issues may need time before they feel comfortable talking about their disability, too. If someone is struggling emotionally in conversation, try backing off a little bit until they’re ready to continue the discussion on their own terms.

When seeking to empower people living with disabilities, treating them like human beings and giving them space to talk freely without feeling judged is a good place to start. Respect their boundaries if they don’t want to talk about some things.

2) Offer help only when they need it

If someone has difficulty walking upstairs, ask if they need help and if so, offer your arm so they don’t have to struggle alone. Stop assuming that someone needs help if they’re in a wheelchair or using crutches; most people living with disability can do most things on their own.

Even if someone is blind, ask them if they need help before extending your hand to assist. People living with disabilities feel more empowered if the people around them don’t pity and offer them unnecessary support. Instead, let them do things independently.

Offer help when it’s needed without assuming that assistance is necessary or asking “can I help” every time such a person walks by. People living with disabilities want to be treated like everyone else and their boundaries respected.

Give them a chance to make their own decisions. They want to be seen as equals and respected, not pitied. So, do your part in making this happen.

3) Do some fun activities with them

Persons living with disability also need to have fun. And, it would be great if they can enjoy a social life like those not living with disability, without being discriminated or belittled.

They’d love to participate in fun activities such as board games, art projects, and sports. Think of some fun games you can play together to show your solidarity and love.  

A good example is air hockey and shuffleboard. Air hockey is popular because it’s a fun and friendly game anyone can play. However, if you prefer a game that’s great for entertaining your friends and family living with disabilities, you won’t go wrong with shuffleboard.

Your friend or family member living with disability needs a lot more exercise than other persons. Therefore, make an effort to include them whenever you go for walks or other types of exercises outdoors. They’ll love it!

Everyone, including people living with disabilities, have the right and freedom to do whatever activity they want without being discriminated based on their disability. After all, disability isn’t inability.

4) Help create “accessible” public spaces

Encourage your local government or not-for-profit organizations whose beneficiaries are people living with disabilities to make public spaces more accessible for such individuals. Some suggestions you can make include:

  • Investing in a wheelchair ramp to help people living with disability to enter buildings
  • Installing grab bars in the bathroom and stairs for safety and stability
  • Putting up visual aids (pictures, symbols) so that everyone can understand the place they’re in, and
  • Making the ground level lower to facilitate movement.

5) Volunteer at an organization that helps people living with disability

If an organization near you helps people living with disabilities, you can volunteer your time and skills to help. People with disabilities are often at a disadvantage because they lack the resources they need to do simple things that many people take for granted.

So, lending your talents and skills can make an enormous difference in their lives. Consider the following:

  • If you’re a good artist, work on some crafts projects together with persons living with disability.
  • If you have foreign language skills, you can offer English or Spanish lessons; teach them how to speak these languages. You can even read lessons aloud to persons without hearing problems — once again, depending on what skill set you to possess.

Some organizations also offer jobs for people living with disabilities or create things like artwork that can be sold as their source of income. You can help individuals working in such organizations to find customers or simply promote the organizations helping them.

Both individuals and organizations are tasked with the role of helping and empowering people living with disabilities to live independently. Find a cause to join or simply show empathy to be part of the movement. Respect persons living with disabilities and engage in various activities with them to show your support. Volunteer at organizations that help such persons and promote policies that help make public places accessible to them. Even as you find ways to empower people with disabilities, the greatest of them all is love.