The Disabled Say: It Is OK To Call A Disabled Person ‘Disabled'
Handicapped. Handi-capable. Disabled. Differently-abled. What to call a disabled person has changed over the years and now a movement is underway that says “disabled” is a proper term, according to Huffpost.
Whether springing from political correctness or just a desire to avoid being unkind, people have danced around saying “disabled” in favor of euphemisms like “handicapable” or “differently-abled.” More and more disabled people are embracing the word “disability,” saying the condition that has disabled them is part of their identity and urging others to do the same with social media campaigns like #SayTheWord.
Still, in determining what to call a disabled person, nondisabled people have been slow to embrace the use of the word “disabled.”
Person-first language explained
The emphasis of so-called “person-first language” is one reason for the uncertainty about what to call a disabled person. In “person-first language,” you identify the person before their disability, such as “student with autism” or “person with cerebral palsy.”
Person-first language is rooted in a desire to avoid defining a person by the disability but disabled folks said the disabilities are a vital part of who they are.
Common sense also remains key. Emily Ladau, a disabled writer from Long Island, New York, told HuffPost she has Larsen syndrome, a disorder that affects the development of bones, and uses a wheelchair. Disability is part of who she is.
“I absolutely would not be OK with anyone calling me a ‘Larsen syndrome woman’ or a ‘wheelchair person.’ I’m a woman who has Larsen syndrome. I’m a wheelchair user. I’m not a diagnosis or a piece of mobility equipment. But I am disabled,” Ladau said.
What to call a disabled person is relevant to those who are disabled and those who are close to them. This community has a history of being exploited, stigmatized and misunderstood, according to the Association of Health Care Journalists, a nonprofit organization.
Often, just asking a disabled person how they prefer to be identified is helpful. “Identify-first language” places the disability-related word first in a phrase such as “deaf person.” That’s opposed to “person-first language,” where the phrase would be “person who is deaf.”
Many disabled people, particularly those who are deaf or autistic, prefer identity-first language. Part of the reason for that is it helps them reclaim language and destigmatize a term. An autistic person is saying that that is part of their identity and it is not bad or scary. It is similar to the LGBTQ+ community reclaiming the word “queer.”
Mental health advocates and health care professionals tend to prefer person-first language. They argue that it prevents people from being identified solely by their illness. Also, recognize that the disability community is not a monolith. One disabled person might prefer being called something that differs from others with the same disability.
What language to use can be difficult to discern, but paying attention to a person and a situation can help. Notice how people refer to themselves when they’re talking in a group setting. When in doubt, call someone by their name. Or ask, tactfully, how they would like to be addressed, Ladau said.
For any questions or help with issues related to disabilities and for cases of birth injuries, contact Tyrone Law Firm today.