Communication is a vital part of our daily lives, but for many disabled individuals, it can be challenging to communicate effectively with the otherwise “healthy” able-bodied people in our lives. Varying communication styles and, communication barriers can sometimes lead to avoiding others completely. However, with some insight on what healthy relationships require, disabled people can overcome these obstacles and truly feel heard in the presence of “healthy” able-bodied people.
One of the most important things to remember when communicating with healthy people as a disabled person is to be confident in yourself and your abilities (as well as your limitations). Your disability does not define you and you are so much more than your disability. Do not hold back from expressing yourself and clearly addressing your needs. Relationships matter and honesty is crucial. You have incredible experiences to share, and your disability does not diminish your value as a person. By approaching communication with confidence and self-compassion, you can help others to also view you as an equal and valuable member of the conversation (as you already know that you are).
Use clear and concise language
When communicating with healthy people as a disabled person, it's important to be clear and straightforward. Avoid using medical jargon or technical terms that may be unfamiliar to the average person. As an alternative, use very simple language and explain any terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar to the listener. Taking these steps will help ensure that your message is better understood and you will more effectively communicate your thoughts and ideas. Relationships that work exhibit the use of simple words helping to avoid misunderstandings as well as ensuring that a message is received as initially intended.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
As a disabled person, it's important to remember that you have the right to ask for accommodations to help you communicate effectively with healthy people. This could include requesting a sign language interpreter, using assistive technology, or asking for written materials in advance. Don't ever be afraid to advocate for yourself and your personal needs. Relationships require speaking up for your needs and asking for understanding, this way you can ensure that your individual needs are met.
Practice active listening and be patient
Relationships are hard, and it's important to not only express your feelings clearly but also to actively listen to the other person’s viewpoint as well. This includes giving them your full attention, asking clarifying questions, and acknowledging their point of view. As a person living with a disability, you may need to communicate in a different way, at a slower pace, or using different means than other people, and it's important to be patient with yourself as well as the other person. Effective communication takes practice, time and effort from both parties.