6 Golden Rules

  1. Always be natural when befriending persons with disabilities (PWDs) like us. As long as you are sincere in trying to be inclusive by reaching out and treating us as equals, we will appreciate it. There is no harm in making an insensitive remark unknowingly, it’s always an opportunity to learn.

  2. If you’re unsure of something, just ask. We appreciate the honesty, and welcome questions. Don’t end up avoiding us just because you’re worried about accidentally saying something that would offend us.

  3. Say hello or offer to help if you think a PWD requires assistance. It is better than staring, which can make us feel uncomfortable. However, do not assume that we always require assistance. Asking is the best policy!

  4. Always ask a PWD if they are interested in being a part of an activity. While certain activities might seem difficult for us to be a part of, please do not make assumptions about what we can or cannot do. We might just surprise you about we are capable of. Wanting to know more about our interests is also a great conversation starter! For example, when organising team building excursions at work do not assume we cannot get involved and exclude us. Try and involve us and together we can find activities and places we can enjoy together.

  5. Hiring us does not add significant additional costs in the long term. Singapore also provides subsidies and assistance programmes to make the workplace more accessible for PWDs. For more information, visit sgenable.sg. Additionally, having more PWDs in the workplace, could introduce new activities and policies that promote inclusivity amongst your staff and help you reach a more diverse client base.

  6. When speaking about us, place who we are before our disability to avoid defining us by our impairment. For example, try not to say "intellectually disabled person". Say "person with an intellectual disability” instead. If you are unsure, feel free to ask individuals PWDs what they prefer.

Physical Disability
“Hi, I'm Ethan. Don't let my wheelchair become a barrier between us. Here's what you can do.”

  1. Be aware of our reach limits. If you spot a wheelchair user in a supermarket for example, always offer help if you notice that certain items might be just out of their reach.

  2. Even if it looks like we might need some help getting up a ramp or through an MRT gantry please check with us before pushing or touching our wheelchair or mobility aids. Sometimes the sudden change of balance might surprise us and cause an accident. Also, a wheelchair can be an extension of our personal space. When in doubt, always feel free to ask.

  3. When talking to us, stand as you would normally, but step back a little to provide comfortable eye contact. Otherwise, sit down if a chair is available. Squatting or looking down at us is as uncomfortable for us as it would be for you.

  4. When eating together at a hawker centre or food court, do offer to help us carry our food. It’s not easy to balance a tray of lor mee while using a wheelchair. You can accompany us to the wheelchair accessible tables. You can always ask the hawkers if they know where these are situated.

  5. When headed out for lunch with a colleague with a physical disability, offer assistance if the route to the venue is not that accessible. Or, it might be best to try a new eating place that day, one that is more accessible. If there is no accessible eating place nearby you can offer to buy us back some food.

  6. It’s alright to ask us if we require assistance using ramps. Some ramps are quite steep and we might like a helping hand.

  7. Here are some wheelchair friendly spaces in Singapore: Building & Construction Authority

Hearing Impairment
Hi! I'm Roseanne. There are many ways to communicate with people who are deaf, like me. Find out more!

  1. Get our attention before speaking to us. Touch us lightly on the shoulder or wave your hand. You can also switch the lights on and off. This is especially important if you want to make sure you have our attention before communicating important information such as in the office or the classroom.

  2. Face us when speaking. Some of us can read lips. Additionally, if there is a sign language interpreter present, look and speak directly to us. Remember, understanding someone is a lot more than just what they say. We can also get important information cues from your facial expressions and body language.

  3. As not all hearing-impaired people can read lips, the easiest way is to check with us and we will can figure out to how best to communicate. It can be very convenient communicating with us via WhatsApp messages, SMS, email or writing on paper

  4. If you have trouble understanding us, let us know and ask which alternative communication method we prefer. It can be as easy as easy as using pen and paper or typing into your phone to show us what you’re saying. Remember, technology can help bring down barriers.

  5. During a meeting, or even when working on a project, take turns to speak one at a time, especially in a large group setting. Speak clearly, do not shout and do not cover your face. For those of us who can read lips, this would be very useful!

  6. If we don’t pick up what you’ve said, try rephrasing it instead of repeating yourself. Keeping sentences short and succinct would be great!

  7. Don’t speak unusually slowly or loudly. Our hearing aids are already tuned to voices at normal volumes.

  8. We enjoy social and sports activities too! Do ask us along for any gatherings and outings, you will be surprised how many activities we can enjoy together.

Visual Impairment
“Hello, I’m Dickson. Here are some things to know when meeting visually impaired people, like me.”

  1. Speak in a clear voice and identify yourself and others who may be with you before making physical contact.

  2. When conversing in a group, announce the name of the person to whom you are speaking. For example, if you’re addressing a question to a visually impaired person called Mark, you can say something like “So Mark, what you think about our proposal?” This will help us understand the flow of the conversation, and will also give us an opportunity to give our input.

  3. To guide us, allow us to hold your elbow instead of holding our arms as we may need our arms for balance. Don’t push, pull or grab our white canes to direct us. Walk at a speed that is comfortable for us. If we have asked for your help at a traffic light junction, you might like to wait and ensure there is sufficient time for you to assist us in crossing the road at an even pace.

  4. Never touch our white canes or guide dogs without permission. Although you may want to pat or play with guide dogs they need to be alert and focused to assist us. If we put down our cane and it’s in your way, just let us know and we will do something about it.

  5. Don’t be surprised if you see persons with guide dogs in shops, restaurants and recreation and public facilities as they are all not only welcome at those places, but also legally allowed to be there. This is supported by religious organisations including MUIS as well as public transport companies and government ministries.

  6. Do offer to read out written information, such as the menu at a restaurant. When serving us please count out the change received so we know which bills are which, too. Remember any other important information such as food allergies and spicy foods can be useful for us!

  7. Give us specific, non-visual information. For example, during a meal, you can describe what’s on our plate using a clock orientation (“the rice is at 6 o’clock”, “the ikan bilis is at 9 o’clock”.) During a meal, you can also assist us by handing us the fork and spoon.

  8. 8. After interacting with us please tell us before you leave as we may not be able to see you going.

Autism Spectrum Disorder
“My name is Ivan. You can help me understand you better if you follow these tips.”

  1. Be patient. Give us time to process the question and respond to you. If after a while you are not sure we understood, you can always check with us if we need you to clarify or repeat what you just said.

  2. Speak literally and describe the request. For example at work ask us, “Do you want to join us for lunch?” instead of “Are you free at lunchtime?” We may have trouble reading between the lines.

  3. Consider moving to a more quiet location if you are trying to communicate with us in a public area with many distractions. Some individuals with autism might get overwhelmed and find it difficult to concentrate in crowded areas like shopping malls or open plan work spaces.

  4. As a teacher or supervisor, if you think that we may have trouble coping with a situation at school or at work you might want to consider giving us a short break to refocus. This could be as simple as allowing us to take a five minute walk away from a busy office or classroom

  5. Always be direct when communicating with us. We may have trouble interpreting facial expressions and emotional body language. For example, a person with autism spectrum disorder might not be able to understand the difference between someone who is joking that she is angry, and someone who is genuinely angry.

  6. We may struggle with maintaining eye contact when you are talking to us, due to sensory overload. It doesn’t mean we are ignoring or disrespecting you. Keep the conversation going as you would normally.

  7. Speak to us normally and as an equal. Exaggerated gestures or conversation can cause confusion.

  8. When working in a group, remember to speak one at a time. We may find it difficult to listen to two or more people speaking at the same time.

  9. Commenting on the behaviour of a parent who has a child with autism could severely harm that parent’s self-esteem and mental well-being. Additionally, there is no known cause, such as parental behaviour, or 'cure' for autism.

  10. Never use the words negative terms “retarded” or “spastic” to refer to us. It hurts our feelings.

  11. Always offer caregivers of children with autism support. However, remember that support can also come by giving caregivers some space. Sometimes when a child with autism is flustered, he/she and their caregiver needs space and support with the situation. Staring disapprovingly would not help the situation.

Intellectual Disability
“I’m Wanyi. Do you know how to talk to people with intellectual disabilities?”

  1. Please maintain eye contact and speak directly to us and not our family members or caregivers.

  2. Speak to us in a clear and concise manner. For example, when giving us instructions at work simple step by step directions and pictures come in handy too.

  3. Consult us instead of making decisions on our behalf. Ask us for our opinions and give us time to respond, more than you might usually allow. Interacting with persons with intellectual disabilities is sometimes as simple as getting used to a different pace of communication.

  4. Do not be offended by a lack of response or unconventional behaviour from us. Be patient and continue talking to us at a regular pace. Sometimes breaking down complex ideas into smaller parts could be very helpful.

  5. Include us in as many activities as you can, including social ones. When organising a group activity in a school, take into consideration what we might like. If you’re not sure, feel free to ask us.

  6. Acknowledge and encourage us when we make significant achievements such as learning new skills or performing well at in our jobs, hobbies or education, not when we manage trivial tasks. That can be condescending.

  7. If you’re not being understood, change your way of communicating with us. Use real objects, photos and pictures to explain things better to us.

  8. Avoid using labels such as “mentally retarded”, “simple-minded”, or “feeble-minded”. Instead, the recommended term is “person with an intellectual disability”. We understand when you are talking about us, rather than to us, and it hurts our feelings.

For more tips, please click here