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Let’s Make A Plan! Training Manual

Nancy Svirida, Disability Law Center, May 2007

3. Language

Our focus is on personal preparedness for individuals with disabilities.  

Having said that, let’s talk about language and disability etiquette for a minute.  We use what’s called person-first language.  For example, we’ll say a person who uses a wheelchair, rather than “wheelchair-bound.”  

In general, we will not make assumptions that someone needs help, we will think before we speak and will speak directly to each other, rather than about each other, and we won’t invade each others’ space.  For example, I won’t assume that an individual who is blind needs help finding the door and automatically grab their arm to guide them.  Instead, if it looks like they need help, I’ll ask that person if they need assistance, and let them hold my arm instead.  

We may make mistakes today but let’s try our best and talk about anything that makes us uncomfortable.  For more information on disability etiquette, take a look at your materials when you have a chance.3 [VA materials]


Federal Legal Updates

Executive Order 13347 passed by President George W. Bush on July 22, 2004 makes it policy:4


To ensure that the Federal Government appropriately supports safety and security for individuals with disabilities in situations involving disasters, including earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, floods, hurricanes, and acts of terrorism


Consider, in their emergency preparedness planning, the unique needs of agency employees with disabilities and individuals with disabilities whom the agency serves


Encourage . . . consideration of the unique needs of employees and individuals with disabilities served by State, local and tribal governments

3 See Disability Etiquette – Tips on Interacting with People with Disabilities by Judy Cohen, Access Resources, a publication of the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association.

4 Executive Order 13347 – Individuals with Disabilities in Emergency Preparedness, July 26, 2004, 69 CFR 142 at 44573.

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