Awareness of handicaps



What is a handicap ?

A handicap is defined as any limitation of movement or restriction of participation of life in society  by a person, by reason of a substantial deformation, lasting or permanent, of one or more functions: physical, sensory, mental, either a combination of these or an invalidating illness. What is a handicap ?
Law “For equality of rights and opportunities, the participation and civic rights of handicapped people” of 11 February 2005.
Among our clients, many will have temporary or permanent handicaps and they will need a more personalised welcome.

Welcome the client, that is obvious; a good welcome for all clients, that is even better.


How many of us know that to adapt our welcome to people in a handicap situation is sometimes simple ?

Several of the foreign visitors who are used to good conditions of welcome and accessibility in their own country also appreciate communication adapted to their needs. This latter can make up for the absence of certain translations.

Giving the documents to a person, is to reply to an incapacity to read (visually-impaired foreign clients).

Taking into account physical evolution (height, weight...) the notion of space has become a criteria more and more important to the clients who therefore appreciate all the alterations made for people with mobility problems.

The notion of space is also appreciated by our staff. Having ample functional work surfaces contributes to their comfort and well-being, improving the quality and rapidity of the meetings.



The consideration for all

Handicapped people live in the same world as us all. They can work, have pastimes, a social life, go on holiday...  All the same, there are several simple rules corresponding to each handicap to make life easier when we meet.



A few principles to memorise :

- Offer your help, don’t impose it.

- Directly address the handicapped person, even if they are accompanied, because they know better than anybody their capabilities and limits.

- Go in front of the person and identify yourself.

- Listen carefully, take your time and reassure them. It is important to stay natural to gain their confidence.

- Speak clearly without raising your voice and answer any questions simply.

- Give the correct information clearly and precisely. Avoid specific terms or abbreviations.

- Be aware of any signs which show they agree, don’t understand, have a fear of not succeeding or being overwhelmed with too much information.

- Ask lots of questions and don’t hesitate to change the way you present the information in order that they understand properly.


 If you accompany them, respect their speed of movement, and where you give written information, use simple diagrams :




People with impaired mobility

As with anyone else, the exchange is based on mutual respect and equality. It’s common sense, but don’t forget :

- follow the signs, nobody is nailed to their wheelchair.…

- suggest that they sit down, standing is often painful,

- don’t lean on their wheelchair, a familiarity which may offend, the chair takes the place of that person’s legs,

- someone in a wheelchair or anyone short may feel excluded.  Try to place yourself at their height if it is reasonable to do so.



Blind or nearly blind people


Visual communication being either difficult or impossible, everything is done by speech or touch. You will often be asked to read, write and give precise verbal information.

To lead a blind person, it is they who take your arm.

In a dangerous situation, just simply say “stop”, nothing else is needed.


People who are deaf or hard of hearing

You cannot see their handicap, simply the means of communication change:  lip reading, sign language (French or foreign), or a phonetic code, many resort easily to writing.

Ear problems can lead to balance problems.

To speak to such a person do not approach from behind, you may startle them. Touch them gently on the shoulder to indicate your presence.

To communicate, stand facing them, and not against the light. Speak slowly and very clearly, above all do not put your hands in front of your face whilst talking.

Have paper and a pen handy to use.

Be aware that your hands, face and eyes talk to them as well.


Mentally handicapped

A mentally handicapped person may have an intellectual deficiency leading to problems of understanding and in making decisions.  They are very often nervous, not appreciating crowds or lifts.

Exchanges are easy, but there are a few rules to uphold :

- Smile ! Your face will give the person confidence,

- Even if the person is accompanied, talk to them (don’t communicate only with the companion),

- Always let the person finish what they are saying,

- Talk to them simply, using short sentences. Don’t hesitate to repeat the information several times.