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How To Help People With Disabilities Live Safely

Jan 9, 2008
People with impaired vision, hearing, balance, or mobility face special safety challenges we may not have considered. Here are some things we can do to be more helpful to disabled people, whether the disability is temporary or permanent.

Vision Impairment

Whether caused by refusal to wear corrective lenses or a serious medical problem, impaired vision can lead to severe injury.

However, denial is powerful and many people refuse to acknowledge their vision is failing. But there are special precautions we can take on their behalf.

* Brighter lighting is generally helpful, but avoid glare, which can blind a person to a hazard.

* Push chairs in, close doors, keep stairs clear, and pick up toys.

* Show and tell the person about furniture rearrangement, and remove obstacles from pathways.

* Place luminous tape or directional signs on the wall near the floor, and pointing to exits.

* Practice fire escapes regularly.

* Store everyday items in easy-to-reach locations.

* Use a daily pill organizer to take medicines.

* Put bells on the dog or cat so their whereabouts are well known.

* Talk to rehabilitation professionals for more safety suggestions.

Hearing Impairment

Any hearing loss interferes with communications and can lead to safety problems. People who can't hear high-pitched warnings need alarms that they can see.

* Honesty is the most important safety essential. Help the person realize they have a problem.

* Ask an audiologist for more facts on these additional safety steps:

* Assign at least two people to notify a hearing-impaired person of emergency warnings. Make sure the person understood what you said. Ask them to repeat the message.

* Get smoke detectors equipped with strobe lights.

* Arrange for lamps to flash to signal the doorbell, phones ringing, and other significant sounds. Get visual or vibration alarm clocks.

* Vibrating pagers can inform users of alarm signals and messages.

* Get cars outfitted with visual signals of emergency sirens.

* If it is difficult or impossible to use a phone, get a text telephone.

Mobility And Balance Impairment

Mobility impairments range from an awkward gait to quadriplegia, which can severely hinder a person's ability to escape in an emergency. To reduce the dangers:

* People with crutches and canes are most vulnerable to slipping or tripping. Keep floors dry and clear of obstacles, and be sure rugs or carpets are secure.

* Install and use handrails or grab bars everywhere necessary; e.g., bathrooms, and where one or more steps or slopes change elevation.

* Learn how to fall safely. Martial arts instructors or physical therapists are possible resources. Get a helmet if needed.

* Look for and eliminate hazards that could lead to a serious injury in case of a fall.

* Wear shoes that fit well, fasten securely and have thin, nonskid soles. Thick soles can cause falls.

* Use carpeting or relatively soft flooring. Ceramic tile or stone will increase the consequences of a fall.

* Stronger muscles may reduce fall frequency and injuries. See a fitness professional for a program.

Security

Disabled people are more vulnerable to crime and should learn and follow prevention strategies.

* Contact local firefighters and police for advice, and to familiarize them with the situation.

* Be realistic about limitations. Avoid places or situations that might be excessively risky.

* Install a home alarm system with a panic button.

* If possible, go out with a friend.

* Large, assistive dogs can be a security plus.

* Take a self-defense course from an instructor knowledgeable about disabilities. Ask a physical therapist for recommendations.

* The "handicapped" symbol on license plates advertises vulnerability. Use a removable placard.

* Contact the police department to see if they have a special indication to show the driver is deaf.

* Look for organizations that will do a home safety inspection.

* Always carry medical information in case of an emergency
About the Author
John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..
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