People First Language

“Describing words used often enough become defining words.”

Too often, we fail to realize the power of our words to empower or limit people with disabilities.  While having a disability is a part of who a person might be, it is not the whole of any person.  However, when we use phrases like “autistic child,” “disabled adult,” and “wheelchair-bound friend,” we are using a person’s disability to define them and, in turn, limit them.

People First Language is the first step in establishing an atmosphere of acceptance and empowerment. Make it a habit to put the person before the disability.  Say “child with autism,” “adult with a disability,” or “friend who uses a wheelchair.”

The next step of course is to learn a person’s name and preferences for language and to respect those preferences. Referring to someone by name is always the appropriate way to address them.

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*Special thanks to Disability is Natural and Kathie Snow for allowing us to use this information.