“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.” —Alfred Adler
This quote really struck me and made me wonder. There is no doubt that we should use more empathy while relating to another, but this is especially so for those with disabilities and additional needs.
One important thing I learnt is that there isn’t just one particular way to practice empathy. Empathy is about respecting the differences in others, whether or not you agree with them. When practising empathy, we can avoid assumptions, judgements and stereotyping.
However, learning empathy is not something that happens overnight. It is a soft skill that takes a lot of practice. Here are five things that we can do to practise empathy and make society a kinder place for people with disabilities.
Listen to and Talk to Them
When you spot a child or an adult with a disability, do not ask questions to whoever they may be with. Instead, speak with them. You may need to learn how they communicate—some people would use sign languages while others use a communication device to help them—however, you will learn something new while potentially making a new friend.
Respect Their Choices and Their Bodies
Although people with disabilities often rely on other people to help them with daily tasks, it is best to always ask them before you attempt to help them. Occasionally they would need help, however if they say, “No, I don’t need help,” you should respect their decision.
Make Them Feel Included
Very often people with disabilities are excluded from activities. It’s always best to take time to ensure that friends or colleagues with disabilities are able to participate equally. If you are not sure how, just ask.
Assume They Can Do Things
It can be exhausting for people with disabilities when people constantly make assumptions about what they are capable or incapable of doing. Just imagine if someone assumed you can’t do anything on your own and doesn’t allow you to even try, thinking you would fail. However, if you assume that people with disabilities can learn and do things on their own, you give them the respect and dignity that they deserve.
Ensure They Have the Support They Need
People with disabilities often need support to get to school, work, eat, etc. and in some cases, they might not get the support they need, when they need it. In those cases, you could show them kindness by taking the time to learn more about certain services they rely on for help and offering it when the opportunity arises.
This is the second part of a series of articles on empathy. The next article will be up next Friday, so watch this space!
For more information about our award-winning, globally-recognised empathy workshop, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp +60182968828. Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash.