Tips and Definitions

A list with tips on how to interact with patients and colleagues with disabilities, followed by central definitions in the field of Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.

Tips for interacting with persons with disabilities

  • Speak directly to the person with the disability and not to his or her interpreter or assistant.
  • Talk in the same way as you speak with anybody else; speak clearly and do not shout or mumble.
  • Never treat an adult or elderly person like a child.
  • Make sure when communicating with people with disabilities that you are at the same eye level. This is the best way to show that your attention is directed to him or her and you are paying heed to what he or she is saying.
  • Offer assistance if you feel that this may be needed, but never help someone without asking whether they want assistance. If you assist someone, ask how they want you to help them.
  • Do not stare if someone or something about the person seems unusual to you, but don't shy away from people who have a very unusual appearance.
  • Talk about people by mentioning their name and do not refer to them by mentioning their impairment.
  • Treat the person as you would treat anyone else and as you would like to be treated by others.

          Source: "Count me in", Light for the world, p. 35

Patient or colleague with hearing impairment - what can you do to include them?  

  • Catch your colleague's attention before speaking.
  • Watch your colleague when you speak. Do not stand with your back to him or talk from another room.
  • Speak clearly and not too fast.
  • Give written notes about important things.
  • Substantiate what you say with body language and facial expressions.
  • Repeat several times, reformulate or write down if you see that your colleague has not understood what you are saying.
  • Be patient. Do not say "forget it" or show irritation if you have to repeat many times. One who is hearing impaired uses a lot of energy to hear what is being said, give him or her a chance to get involved.




Accessibility describes the degree to which an environment, service, or product allows access by as many people as possible. Meaningful access includes identifying and overcoming different types of barriers to improve accessibility. This encompasses access to the physical environment, transportation, information and communication, education and health services, and protection services. Accessibility is a core principle of inclusive humanitarian aid. 
(ADCAP Age and Disability Capacity)


Factors in a person’s environment that, through their absence or presence, limit functioning and participation. Often there are multiple barriers affecting a person. The 7 most common types of barriers include attitudinal, communication, physical, policy, programmatic, economic and transportation.
(CDC- Centre for Disease Control & Prevention)


An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action. (WHO/ World Report on Disability)


Inclusion is an approach to improve the terms on which individuals and groups take part in society - providing rights and improving ability, opportunity and dignity of those disadvantaged. (World Bank)
Inclusion includes the principles of rights, empowerment and participation, non-discrimination and equality, diversity, dignity, support and accessibility. (CBM/ The Future is Inclusive)

Persons with disabilities (PWD)

“Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.
(UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities)

Universal Design

“Universal design” means the design of products, environments,
programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent
possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. “Universal
design” shall not exclude assistive devices for particular groups of persons
with disabilities where this is needed.
(United Nations - Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities)


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