Tuesday, April 19, 2011

People First Language offers humane ways to refer to members of the nation's largest minority group

This article comes from the spring 2011 Wyoming Arts Council Artscapes newsletter set for an April 29 pub date. It was contributed by WAC staffer Marirose Morris. As Arts Access Specialist, Marirose oversees several grant programs and 504/ADA guidelines. Contact her at the WAC at 307-777-7742.
A person’s self-image is tied to the words used about him/her. People First Language was started by individuals who said, “We are not our disabilities!”

People First Language puts the person before the disability, and describes what a person has, not who a person is. Are you “cancerous” or do you have cancer? Is a person “handicapped/disabled” or does he/she “have a disability?” Using a diagnosis as a defining characteristic reflects prejudice, and robs the person of the opportunity to define him/herself.

People with disabilities comprise the nation’s largest minority group. It is also the most inclusive: all ages, genders, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic levels are represented, and anyone can join it, at any time.

Instead of:
Children/adults with a disability
Handicapped, disabled, special needs
S/he has a cognitive disability
S/he is mentally retarded
S/he has Down syndrome
S/he’s mongoloid/Down’s
S/he has autism
An autistic person
S/he has a learning disability
S/he is learning disabled
S/he is deaf
The deaf
S/he has a speech disorder
S/he is blind, has a visual impairment
The blind
S/he has epilepsy
An epileptic
S/he uses a wheelchair
Wheelchair bound
S/he walks with a assistive device
A cripple
S/he is a little person
Dwarf or midget
People without disabilities
Normal or healthy people
Accessible parking, hotel rooms, etc.
Handicapped parking, hotel rooms, etc.

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