Airbus did a few years ago a few videos about inclusion of disabled people, including this one: https://youtu.be/RJuE_Ywl64o

It features a disabled woman with a prosthetic right arm (or hand, it is not very clear), being greeted by a new work colleague. The colleague is confused about how to shake hands with her and she helps him by extending her left hand.

The videos are not particularly good (especially compared to the fantastic ones they did on information security) but it raised a question in my head. In some situations, you do not shake hands at all (I avoid doing that when there are more people because this is ridiculous when everyone is walking around the conference room to shake hands with everyone). In others, the disabled person makes a move to show you what to do.

But what if I have to make the first move and cannot avoid shaking hands? I'm not sure about what to do, if there's an etiquette or a preferred way, either to shake the right prosthetic hand or extend my left hand.

I would be particularly interested in the point of view of someone who has actually been on one of the sides of the interaction.


1 Answer 1


I've observed interactions with people who have had disabilities, specifically these two: shaking hands with someone in a wheel chair (and thus shorter than a typical adult due to the sitting); and greeting a dwarf.

In both cases the wheelchair-bound person and the dwarf did not like people squatting down onto their knees to make eye contact. Instead of just shaking hands like you would a child (for the height analogy here) which would not call attention to their conditions some people opted to walk up, squat down onto the balls of their feet and then greet them.

It seems to me via these interactions and others I've read described elsewhere that (generally) people with some kind of disability or abnormal condition just want to be treated normally, without undue attention to their condition. So I'd say.. if they have a prosthetic right-hand just shake it (assuming you're also right handed); if you're left-handed shake their left hand etc. Just do what you'd normally do. Otherwise, if they explain what to do beforehand just do that but I would probably avoid asking "how do I shake your hand" etc because that calls attention to it and is probably a question they get endlessly where they just want to go about their lives like anyone else.

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    Shaking hands is always done with the right hand regardless of handedness. Otherwise one person might proffer their left hand and the other their right and it is not clear how to resolve the situation. It is the same reason why there is a convention for which side of the road to drive on.
    – hkBst
    Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 8:37

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