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Home Blog 6 Great Tips for Talking With an Amputee

6 Great Tips for Talking With an Amputee

Posted in: Amputee, Prosthetic

Posted on: by Level Four

6 Great Tips for Talking With an Amputee

We live in a diverse world with diverse abilities. In the midst of so many differences, respect is a shared foundation for all interactions. When interacting with an amputee or prosthetic user, keep these tips in mind to maintain comfort and respect for both you and your acquaintance:

Talk to, not above: Even if sitting in a wheelchair with an able-bodied friend or caretaker, speak directly to an amputee, not just to their peers. Speaking over an individual’s head, skirting around eye contact, or ignoring someone completely and addressing someone else shows a lack of focus and respect.

Establish a good first impression: Shaking hands is still polite, artificial limb or no. Reach out your hand, and warmly receive theirs whether or not it’s a prosthetic. If they can’t shake hands, touch their elbow or shoulder as a sign of greeting.

Respect the device: For a prosthetic user, their device is an extension of their body and should be treated as such. Propping your foot on the wheels of a wheelchair or resting your hand on a prosthesis is an invasion of personal space, and the intrusion may come across as condescending. Just as it’d be awkward for a new acquaintance to casually lean an elbow on you while you talked, keep your hands to yourself and off the device until you’re expressly allowed to do otherwise.

Refrain from assisting: Before you lend a hand, ask if he or she wants it. While you think grabbing a box, opening a jar, or moving a stack of papers may help an upper-extremity amputee, they may view your actions as condescending or unnecessary as they seek to maintain their independence. Ask first, and don’t be offended if they turn down the request.

Hold your tongue: You wouldn’t appreciate a new acquaintance opening conversation by asking probing questions about your personal life. Similarly, a blunt and immediate, “So what happened to you?” directed to an amputee is jarring and downright rude. Establish rapport first and foremost, and let the conversation direct itself down that road.

Get your terminology straight: Impairment? Handicap? Disability? Vocabulary surrounding prosthetics and their users shifts with time, and it means different things to different people. If you notice you conversation partner is an amputee or uses a prosthetic, the best tactic is to simply ask what terminology they prefer you to use.

When in doubt, follow the Golden Rule – just treat others the way you want to be treated. The experts at Orthotics & Prosthetics by Design work with patients and their families alike to help navigate the world of O&P. For resources and assistance for the whole family, give us a call at the location closest to you!