Thursday, February 14, 2013

What is People-First Language? Just as the term would imply, this language trend involves putting the person first, not the disability (e.g. a person with a disability, not a disabled person). Thus, people-first language tells us what conditions people have, not what they are (Schiefelbusch Institute, 1996). Other suggestions for referring to those with disabilities include:
  •  avoiding generic labels (people with schizophrenia rather than schizophrenics);
  • emphasizing abilities, not limitations (for instance, uses a wheelchair is preferable to confined to a wheelchair);
  • avoiding euphemisms (such as physically challenged) which are regarded as condescending and avoid the real issues that result from a disability;
  • and avoiding implying illness or suffering (had polio is preferable to is a polio victim, and has multiple sclerosis is preferable to suffers from multiple sclerosis) (Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2000; Schiefelbusch Institute, 1996).
Improve each of the following sentences using “people-first” language.

1. Her daughter is autistic.

2. The ARC is an organization that helps the intellectually handicapped.

3. I took a class about learning disabled children.

4. Gallaudet is a college for the deaf.

5. A learning disabilities teacher has many opportunities to help the mentally challenged.

6. I donate money to organizations that help the handicapped.

7. After suffering a spinal cord injury, he became a paraplegic and was confined to a wheelchair.

8. He is a polio victim who currently suffers from post-polio syndrome.

9. We saw a video about a schizophrenic woman.

10. She is afflicted with multiple sclerosis and is bedridden.

11. He was crippled from birth.

12. There was a blind girl in my calculus class.

borrowed with permission from Edmund J. Sass, Ed.D.


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