Now, How Do You Say That?.....
People First Language, Etiquette and Not offending Folks - By Sherry Bushnell
It’s not that I am a stickler for saying things just right, or that I get offended when someone uses the word “handicapped.” My problem is knowing what to say to the folks who ask me the “right way” to say something. So, thanks to a practical pamphlet shared by Debbie Mills, CA, printed by Community Interface Services, I have in my hand the “right way” to say it!
If given my druthers, I’d just as soon stick with my regular way of saying things. But those of you who are curious, here is how “they” prefer we say it.
Here is a poem that condenses the whole idea of “person first” mentality.
“I Am A Person First...and I Have a Disability.”
When you deal with me, treat me just as you would any other person...with respect and courtesy.
Please look me in the eye, and speak directly to me, not to my companion.
I am used to coping with my disability, but I appreciate your help when I need it.
If I have trouble seeing or hearing or moving easily, please remember that it is my eyes or ears or muscles that do not work as well as yours…
Beyond that I have the same needs and wants, hopes and desires as you do.
I have problems and fears, just like you but I also have strengths that sometimes even I don’t recognize.
I need to talk to you about those abilities and I need you to listen.
But most of all, I need you to remember that I am a person first.
People with disabilities prefer to be called “people with disabilities”. This way, you acknowledge that they are, indeed people first.
If you saw a person in a wheelchair unable to negotiate the stairs of a building, would you say: “There is a handicapped person unable to find a ramp”? Or would you say “There is a person using a wheelchair, who is handicapped by an inaccessible building?”
A disability is a functional limitation that interferes with a person’s ability to walk, hear, talk, learn, etc. A handicap is a physical or attitudinal constraint that is imposed upon a person. Use handicap to describe a situation or barrier imposed by society, the environment or oneself. Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person to get things said or done.
People who have speech difficulties.
People who are hearing impaired
People who use wheelchairs
People who are visually impaired
Compassion, in the form of help, may not be help at all if we are not thinking about the real needs of the person with a disability. For instance, someone who is struggling to get a word out, having difficulty due to stuttering, may not appreciate having things said for them.
So, here is what to say...
Person who has, Person with… Person who is affected,
Instead of… afflicted, suffers from, victim or stricken.
Instead of...disabled / handicapped, palsied, C.P., spastic, retarded, epileptic, mongoloid.
Say… of short stature Instead of...dwarf or midget.
Say… without speech, non-verbal Instead of...mute of dumb.
Say… deaf or hearing impaired Instead of hard of hearing.
Say… visually impaired Instead of sightless.
Say… developmental delay Instead of slow.
Say… emotional disorder or mental illness Instead of crazy or insane.
Say… learning disability Instead of learning disabled.
Say… non-disabled Instead of normal, healthy.
Say… mobility impaired Instead of lame.
Say… cleft lip Instead of hare lip.
Say… seizures Instead of fits.
Say… congenital disability Instead of birth defect.
Say… condition Instead of disease (unless it is a disease).
Say… medically involved, Instead of sickly.
Say… uses a wheelchair Instead of confined to a wheelchair bound.
Say… Physical disability Instead of crippled or lame.