Posted in disability civil rights

When Talking to or about People with Disabilities, Words Matter.


This photo is pretty self-explanatory – it’s a begger with his cap in his hand. But a lot of people don’t know that this is where the term, “handicap” came from. This is a big part of the reason why that term is now disfavored.

In addition, when you talk about a Black or Hispanic individual, you don’t usually mention their race first, if at all. This is why people with disabilities advocate for “people first” language. Rather than say, ”That’s a wheelchair-bound person,” why not say, “That’s a person in a wheelchair.” That way, you are identifying their humanity before mentioning their disability.

These may seem like unimportant issues, but it is our common discourse that helps mold the self-image of the people we are talking about. And for most of the people with disabilities that I know, they would like to be thought of first as who they are, not what they have. And that goes for me, too.

See the link below for more info.

http://adata.org/factsheet/ADANN-writing

Author:

I am an attorney with a disability, and I co-teach a class on disability law. But because laws are just words, I would like to learn and convey more of the real world of living with a disability in the 21st Century.

2 thoughts on “When Talking to or about People with Disabilities, Words Matter.

  1. Hi Helen. I appreciate your comments on people first language when describing people with disabilities. I actually like to say I use a wheelchair instead of I am in one. I feel it further distinguishes my humanness.

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