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Check out these tips to keep in mind when you make friends with a disabled person!

Man is a social animal. We all love to make friends. We love hanging out on weekends, going for parties with friends or maybe even go for a stroll down the park!

Undoubtedly, our world is going towards the right path towards inclusion. Disabled people and those with no disabilities walk hand in hand at schools, jobs and even for casual outings. Maybe your friend or a friend's friend is a disabled person. Are you a good friend to them?

When you make friends with a disabled person, it might be quite different for the first time. You might be unsure about how to start a conversation or whether your sentences might even offend the other person.

Sarath P is a wheelchair user and works for Thanal Paraplegic Welfare Society in Kerala. He says that people with no disabilities thinks that a disabled person is incapable of doing things on their own!

It is funny how people arrive at conclusions and judgements based on our disabilities. Most of the new people that we meet are sure that we cannot do things on our own! Our group Thanal is run by a bunch of disabled people. We organized over 80 relief kits for flood hit areas in Kerala. We are aiming to hit more! People with no disabilities need to understand that we are just as capable as you! Personally I feel that only family members are going to stand with a disabled person through thick and thin when compared to friends- Sarath P, wheelchair user.

Wondering how to have a great time with your disabled friend without intimidating them? Here are a few tips.
  • Do not assume what your friend can do or cannot- If you are making plans with your disabled friend, ask them if they are in for it or not. Do not assume things for someone else! Similarly, a disabled person is usually independent and knows their limitations just like a person with no disability. If you keep assuming things for them, you might end up looking weird and judgemental!
  • When you make plans, opt for an accessible venue- Youngsters are often looking out for places to hang out when they have free time. So if you are planning for weekends with your disabled friend, ensure that the venue is accessible and disabled friendly! Disabled people would love to keep their ways simple and hassle free. Maybe you might not find a great accessible hangout place. But the accessible place that you have found out will be a great bet for your disabled friend.
  • Small acts of kindness matters- Friendship is all about being treated equally and sharing love and care. Do not forget to treat to your disabled friend with oodles of love and care. Even your small gestures matter a lot. For instance, helping them to pick up their shopping bags home or offering a helping hand when they need will only make you more special in their lives!
  • Do not glorify a disabled person! - This is one of the most common blunders that every person makes. A disabled person does not need inspiration from us. They are on their own and living a happy life just like any other person with no disability. 'You inspire me', 'How do you manage to live normally in spite of your disability?' These are some of the most common insensitive statements that a disabled person hears. Do you realise that you sound extremely awkward when you pass such comments?
  • Assistive aids are extremely important to disabled people, respect that- Right from wheelchairs to crutches or hearing aids, assistive devices are an essential part of a disabled person's life. Being their friend, you must respect that. Leaning on to a person's wheelchair while having a conversation or fiddling with someone's hearing aids makes you an insensitive person!
  • Disability does not define a person, there is much more to it- Judging a person on their disability define your character! A disabled person can make a great friend and good company. Give them their space and enjoy your times together.
  • ALSO READ: Interacting with a disabled customer? Here are a few tips to keep in mind

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