What it is and why it matters
“People first language.” What does this mean for people who experience disabilities? When referring to people who experience a disability we’re asking you not to say “the disabled” or “mentally retarded” or “special needs person” or similar phrases.
“People first language” promotes the idea that people who experience disabilities are people first, and their disability, to the extent it is relevant, should come second. For example, a “person who experiences autism” or a “person with autism,” instead of an “autistic.”
Words affect the way people think. They can reinforce outdated stereotypes or encourage respect through accurate, non-judgmental descriptions. As members of the fourth estate, you can make a difference.
For examples and a more thorough discussion of people first language, please read:
- Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities “Describing People with Disabilities”