How to Properly Greet Disabled Business Partners

An encounter which sets the tone for all future business transactions is the handshake. But what happens when the handshake is changed in a way you hadn’t anticipated? So many people with physical disabilities encounter this every day. Almost every right hand or arm amputee has probably encountered an able-bodied person who has hesitated in initiating a handshake. This typically is due to ignorance or fear they will offend the other party more than anything. Because the handshake is no longer used to check an enemy’s arm for weapons, now acting more as a traditional show of good faith, it can be adjusted accordingly. That’s why this week’s blog is going to focus on how to properly shake hands with a person with a disability affecting their right hand.

If Right Hand Prosthesis Exists

If a person has a prosthetic hand and they extend it to you, shake it. This part is pretty straightforward. However, in some cases, a high tech prosthetic used for dexterous tasks may not be suitable for a hard handshake. Just be careful; prosthetics are very expensive and there is no need to crush it with a vice-like handshake. Most importantly in this and every case, refrain from making a remark about the prosthesis because, honestly, they’ve probably heard it before.

If Right Hand Prosthesis is Suited for Functionality Not Appearance

Most people have at least seen a picture of the hook-shaped prosthesis fitted for certain amputees. These and other types of prostheses are used for functionality rather than appearance. If the person who you are meeting extends their prosthesis, again, shake it. They may extend their left hand. In this case, you should adjust accordingly and shake with your left as well.

If Right Hand Prosthesis Does Not Exist

It is best to let the person you are meeting make the first move if you are uncomfortable doing so. They may extend the arm where it ends, their left hand, or nothing at all. Simply making eye contact and saying, “hello” is enough in that situation.

General Information On Greeting Persons with Disabilities

There are a few key things to remember in any of these encounters, and the first is that it is okay to ask. A simple, “I would like to shake your hand,” will even work as a way to open a dialogue. An individual may offer their left hand, or nothing at all. Even better, waiting for the other person to take the lead is best if you’re unsure. Just smile, make eye contact, and be open to their gesture whatever it may be.

Also, never pet a service dog or touch/lean on a wheelchair if applicable. Both are considered necessary extensions of a person’s space and are vital to mobility and safety in any environment. Speak directly to a person who is hard of hearing, not to their translator. Also, don’t be afraid if you say something like, “sorry, I need to run!” to a person in a wheelchair or, “I hear ya!” to a deaf person. They probably use that phrase as well. All in all, just have a genuine conversation and everything should be fine. If you don’t make things weird, they won’t be.