SUPER POWERS: Dr. Carolyn Reid Brown on disability etiquette

Sarah Boyce, Contributing Writer

Assistant Professor Carolyn Reid Brown gave Bloomsburg an amazing lesson on how to approach those with disabilities on Monday, Feb. 18. Dr. Brown has sought to enhance special education throughout her career and advocates for building better relationships between students with and without disabilities.

As a part of Black History month, Dr. Brown took the time to talk about how the Civil Rights movement played a huge role in laying the groundwork for recognizing the rights of people with disabilities.

She also stated how “our prejudices impact how we communicate with each other. Dr. Brown went on to discuss how people with disabilities are the most diverse and largest minority group, explaining that an estimated 54 million Americans are reported as living with a disability. Dr. Brown also discussed the reality that there are people in society living with disabilities that the general population might not even know about and how society as a whole can improve the prejudices we may have by following guidelines known as “disability etiquette,” defined as “established guidelines for referencing, communicating, and interacting with persons with disabilities for improved engagement and respect of a human’s disability.”Additionally, Dr. Brown also included in her lecture information about how to approach and communicate with people who have different types of disabilities. When approaching someone with difficulty speaking, provide extra time in conversation, offer help with instructions and repeat words if necessary.


If approaching someone with a developmental disability, be patient, include visual aids when necessary, help that person feel safe and establish trust and always ask if they need help.When approaching someone in a wheelchair, do not push or touch their chair, reach over the chair or grab the person themselves. When approaching someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder, do not touch them without their permission, ensure all your questions are direct and clear, give them time to respond, be accommodating by turning down lights and sounds and avoid sarcasm and metaphors, as someone with ASD can take these literally. If approaching someone who is blind, always identify yourself, give nonvisual information if giving directions, avoid petting their service dogs and realize that they already know how to orient themselves and get around. In all cases, Dr. Brown offered three key tips to remember. Be patient, ask before you act and treat those who have a disability the same way you would treat anyone else.