Must-Know Tips for Serving Your Clients with Physical Disabilities

Woman pushing a man in a wheelchair

Some agents may be unfamiliar with working with clients with physical disabilities. While, for the most part, working with buyers and sellers who are disabled will be just like working with any of your other clients, there are a few important things to remember.

With that in mind, here are four must-know tips for serving your clients with physical disabilities. Read them over to learn more.

1. Ask clients about their needs in your initial client meeting

No matter what disability your client has, there’s a good chance that they may have some unique needs when it comes to their housing search, either for the property itself or something that you can do to assist them. As their real estate agent, you need to make sure that you’re aware of those needs so that you can provide the best service possible.

The best way to find out what those unique needs are is just to be upfront about it and ask. Generally people with physical disabilities are very used to explaining any specific accommodations that they require, so it should just be a matter of making sure to take good notes.

The ideal time to ask this is likely in your initial client meeting with them. You’ll already be asking them lots of questions about their housing search, like their preferred location and their ideal number of bedrooms and bathrooms, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a time to ask about the best way to accommodate their physical needs.

2. Do the right due diligence before showings

Sometimes living with a disability means doing extra prep work. For example, if a particular condo has steps in the front of the building, someone who uses a wheelchair is going to need to know if there is a back or side entrance that has a ramp. Otherwise, that listing is probably not going to be worth seeing.

Since buyers won’t often have the ability to call the listing agent and get those specific questions answered, it will likely fall on you to do that due diligence. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask a few questions on your client’s behalf, so that you can make sure that your showing will go well.

The caveat is that there is a fine line between doing some prep work so that you can make sure a showing goes smoothly and making assumptions. If you’re unsure whether a particular listing will work for your client after you have the answers, take the initiative to ask them about it before making a definitive decision one way or the other.

3. Always ask permission before offering help

Often, an issue that comes up when working with people with disabilities is the issue of offering help. For instance, if you have a client who is visually impaired, you may feel the urge to take them by the arm and assist them in navigating a furniture-packed room. While that is a very kind impulse, it’s important to make sure you’re offering help in the right way.

All you need to do is ask first. Using the above example, it would likely be very jarring for the visually-impaired person to be grabbed by the arm without warning. Alternatively, they may have their own method for navigating the room and they may not need your help at all, but you won’t know for sure unless you ask first.

Put simply, this comes down to a matter of respect and courtesy. Asking before offering help shows that you respect your client’s bodily autonomy and their knowledge of their own needs.

4. Remember people with disabilities are still people

Lastly, this may sound obvious, but it’s so important that it bears repeating: Above all, your clients with physical disabilities are still people. They want and expect that you will treat them in the same way that you would any other client.

Obviously, this can mean many different things, depending on the situation, but here are a few general reminders:

  • Address them directly: Don’t direct questions meant for them to another person.
  • Look them in the eye: Try to avoid staring at any assistive devices or medical equipment.
  • Refrain from asking unnecessarily invasive questions: Any variations on “What’s wrong with you?” and “Can I ask what happened to you?” are bound not to go over well. As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t ask the same question of an able-bodied person, it isn’t appropriate here.
  • Remember that every person with a disability is different: No two people with a disability are going to have the exact same set of needs or preferences on how to handle their accommodations. Try to avoid making assumptions and give your client the space to speak for themselves.
  • When in doubt, ask: It really is that that simple. If you’re unsure how to handle a certain situation, ask your client for guidance. Odds are they will be more than happy to give you direction.

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