1. When you are talking about someone who has a disability or an illness, don’t say that someone ‘suffers from” or is a ‘victim.’ If someone has a heart attack or a stroke, they either survive it or they don’t. They don’t ‘suffer’ it. We live with conditions; we are not ‘victims’ of them.
  2. In the social hall or the sanctuary, be aware of the needs of congregants who may appreciate your assistance. Some people need help to get into the room, get a seat or serve their food.
  3. The wheelchair accessible restroom is there for people who have disabilities or are helping someone else to use it. People who really need it don’t have the option of using another – but you do.
  4. The ends of the sidewalks are level locations where people who use wheelchairs or have difficulty walking may be trying to leave the building to get to their cars. If a car is blocking the end of the walkway they will be trapped.
  5. ‘Assistive Devices’ are walkers, canes, crutches, wheelchairs or scooters. Touching them is like touching the owner. Don’t move them, don’t lean on them, and don’t put anything on them. If it is really in the way, tell the owner and ask where it can be put.
  6. If you are talking to someone, maintain eye contact, speak slowly and clearly, and don’t cover your mouth with your hands, pencil, etc. If the person you are talking to is hard of hearing or deaf, they can’t understand you if they can’t see your mouth moving. Don’t yell or talk extra loudly; it won’t help.
  7. Please don’t talk over each other. For those who have difficulty hearing, it becomes just a lot of noise.
  8. Attitude is everything. Please don’t say or do anything to give the impression that you think people who have disabilities are not as happy or healthy as anyone else.
  9. When you get up from a chair at one of the tables, please push the chair as far in as you can. For people who do not see well, or those with poor balance, a chair sitting unexpectedly away from the table is a real hazard.
  10. If someone appears sad or upset, don’t be afraid to ask if they are alright, and don’t ignore the answer if it makes you uncomfortable. If it’s something you can’t deal with, tell the Rabbi.
  11. Don’t ignore the “Scent Free” rule. Some congregants are extremely sensitive to fragrances – even the really expensive perfumes can cause severe reactions.
  12. If you put fish or eggs into a food where it wouldn’t be expected, put a note on it when it’s on the table for Kiddush or Oneg Shabbat, to warn people with food allergies. Don’t forget – no nuts in any of the foods, ever.
  13. Don’t assume you know what help someone needs or doesn’t need. Ask!
  14. If you are told that someone needs assistance, please listen to what they want and follow the directions as closely as you can.
  15. Don’t say ‘yes’ out of guilt. If you don’t feel comfortable in providing a particular assistance, say so and offer to find someone else who can do it. Unless it’s really an emergency, in which case do the best you can without injuring yourself or the other person.
  16. Don’t assume there is anything that a person who has a disability can’t or won’t want to do. People with all kinds of disabilities play golf, tennis, bowl, or go dancing – regardless of the type of disability!
  17. Don’t ever say ‘wheelchair bound’ or ‘confined to a wheelchair’. Both are inaccurate and offensive to people who use wheelchairs. They represent freedom to people who need them, and we do not consider them restrictive at all.
  18. Don’t ever push someone’s wheelchair without asking, even if they are going the same place you are. It’s like grabbing someone’s arm and dragging them along.
  19. Don’t ever yell at people who have a disability, unless it’s to warn them of an emergency.
  20. If you are speaking with someone who is very short or seated in a wheelchair or on a walker, please sit down or bend over so they don’t have to lean back to look at you. Don’t kneel – it’s demeaning.
  21. If you know someone is taking medication for a mental illness, and they appear to be upset, don’t ask them if they have taken their medication that day. The medications for depression, anxiety, etc., don’t start or stop working after one day.
  22. Don’t be afraid to use normal language around people who have disabilities. It’s OK to ask someone who is blind if they have read a book. You can ask someone who is deaf if they have heard the news, or ask someone who uses a wheelchair if they are going for a walk. Even people who are mentally ill say that something (or someone) drives them nuts.
  23. Don’t talk to adults who have intellectual disabilities as if they are children. They are adults.
  24. While it is acceptable to use the term ‘impairment’ with other disabilities, you may not use it in referring to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing. In American Sign Language ‘impaired’ means broken or drunk, and that is offensive to people in the Deaf community.
  25. If someone has a facial difference (noticeable misalignment or missing features) do not assume there is any other problem. Do not call a facial difference a disability. People who live with a facial difference generally are not disabled – they just look different.
  26. If someone is using an accommodation device – wheelchair, crutches, leg brace, etc., don’t ask what happened, unless this is a close friend for whom you have a real concern. To ask out of plain curiosity is offensive and hurtful. The disability might be one that the person has lived with since birth or early childhood. To that person your question is emphasizing how ‘different’ or ‘not normal’ he or she appears to you.