One thing I love when I’m doing a presentation on disabilities is experiencing the volume of human kindness. There is always an atmosphere of “how can I help?” and this yields great questions during the Q&A portion at the end of the events.
People will share a real or hypothetical situation involving a loved one, coworker, or student and ask me what would be the best thing to do. Inevitably, my answers include something about communication, and most times I’ll assert that it’s best to know ahead of time.
I’m overlapping with some other articles I’ve published here, but I thought it would be nice to have in one space a checklist of sorts. I’ll write of my own needs and do my best to think of what other people with disabilities may need. This regards communicating ahead of a social, professional, or academic situation.
What We’d Like to Know Ahead of Time
- Where is it?
- How big is the space?
- Are there stairs? What else do I need to know about layout?
- What is the seating like?
- Is there a quiet space to step away to?
- What are the bathrooms like?
- How long is it?
- Are there breaks? When?
- Can I leave early if I need to?
- How should I signal that I need a break or need to leave?
- What is the sensory (lighting, sound, temperature, allergens) atmosphere?
- What content/themes will there be?
- How many people will be there?
- Who will be there whom I know?
- Is there a situation or recent experience of an attendee that I need to be sensitive to?
- Will there be pets/animals? May I bring mine?
- What will I be expected to do?
- What value can I provide?
- What food options will be available and when?
- What am I allowed to bring along?
- What must/should I bring?
What We Should Consider Communicating Ahead of Time
- Sensory or content triggers
- Physical, cognitive, and/or emotional limitations
- Sudden changes in us that may occur and how to appropriately respond
- What to notice that indicates we need help and what help to provide
- What we appreciate that will make it easier
- What not to do even if it seems helpful
- Modifications we will bring or use, including service animals
- Any action that might be construed as rude and what it actually means
- Our signal that we need a break or need to leave
- How we are feeling
Multiple Means of Communication
Different people communicate in different ways. How we communicate best is determined by a number of factors including comfort level, learning style, and neurodiversity. The best way to be inclusive is to communicate via multiple means and give multiple opportunities for us to communicate.
- Text messaging
- Suggestion box
- Video call
- Phone call
- One-on-one meeting
- Group discussion
- Role playing
- Bulletin board
- Web page
- Social media
- Shared journal
- Splat tools