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People First Language

You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at all times.  And you also have the right to have practices and policies explained to you in a manner that you can understand.  All efforts to communicate with you should therefore be expressed in “people first language.”

The Developmental Disabilities Council (DD Council) supports the regular use of “people first language.”  Language can be a reflection of how people see each other. Responsible communicators are now choosing language that reflects the dignity of people with disabilities - words that put the person first, rather than the disability. Read on for a short course on using language that empowers.

Think "people first." Say "a woman who has mental retardation" rather than "a mentally retarded woman."

Avoid words like "unfortunate," "afflicted" and "victim." Also, try to avoid casting a person with a disability as a superhuman model of courage. People with disabilities are people first.

Refrain from mentioning "symptom," "patients," or "treatment".  A developmental disability is not a disease.

Avoid terms with obvious negative or judgmental connotations, such as "crippled," "deaf and dumb," "lame" and "defective." If you aren't sure how to refer to a person's condition, ask. If the disability is not relevant to your story or conversation, why mention it at all?

Never refer to a person as "confined to a wheelchair." Wheelchairs enable people to escape confinement. A person with mobility impairment "uses" a wheelchair.10

For more information on the Hawai`i DD Council visit the website available at: http://www.hiddc.org.

10 This definition was taken from the Hawai`i State Council on Developmental Disabilities website.  

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