Today, I was an invited speaker at the National Association of Government Communicators' annual Communications School conference in Bethesda, Maryland. Before my session, I attended a wonderful presentation: "A Market You Can’t Miss: People with Disabilities" by Juliette Rizzo (Director, Exhibits and Agency-wide Outreach, U.S. Department of Education) and Valerie Suber (Public Information Director, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities). Valerie distributed a handout on People-First Language, "a way of communicating that reflects respect for people with disabilities by choosing words that portray them accurately."
Though I wasn't able to find Valerie's handout at her Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities site, I did find an excellent guide, which presents many of the same concepts, at the Arc of Washington State site. This handout, The Missing Page In Your Stylebook: People-First Language, offers tips for reporting on people with disabilities, such as:
- "Do not define individuals by their disabilities. Put People First, not their disability."
- "Do not portray successful people with disabilities as superhuman. This raises false expectations that all people with disabilities should be high achievers."
- "Do not sensationalize a disability by using such language as 'afflicted with, 'crippled,' 'suffers from,' 'confined to a wheelchair,' 'wheelchair-bound,' etc."
The handout also offers a list of People-First Language Preferred Expressions:
|Say/Write ... ||Instead of ... |
|Has paraplegia||Paraplegic |
|Child with autism||Autistic |
|Adult with Down Syndrome ||Mongoloid |
| Person who has ...|| Suffers from ...|
I am eager to learn how you and your organization strive to use People-First Language. Let me know or post a comment here.
-- Leslie O'Flahavan