Language is ever evolving. At one time things were “Groovy” then “Radical” then “Bodacious” then “Rockin” then “Cool” then “lit” and now possibly “turnt”. All of which are ways to show that you like something. Names change too, I was born Rachael, my family called me Rach, my cousins called me Ratchett (before it was a bad thing) and now my friends call me Red. It’s common everyday language. There are parts of history that is not so nice in its language. Terms used to describe people in the disability community are no different.

That’s why we promote the “People First Language.” The guiding principle is to refer to the person first, not the disability. In place of saying “the disabled,” it is preferable to say “people with disabilities”. This way the emphasis is placed on the person, not the disability. It is only important to refer to the person’s disability if it is relevant to the conversation or situation. Disability should not be the primary, defining characteristic of an individual, but merely one aspect of the whole person.

There are some words that most people would see as acceptable but they really are not. Some are terms that are known as never to be used and others might surprise you but it’s important to remember that you are talking to or about a person no matter what. The following terms should be avoided when speaking to, or about, persons with disabilities.

Invalid                                                                                wheelchair-bound

Mongoloid                                                                          deaf and dumb

Defective                                                                            mute

Victim                                                                                   crippled

Special person                                                                  suffers from

Handicapped                                                                     stricken with

A patient                                                                             retarded

Afflicted with                                                               special needs person

There were a couple in there you hear a lot right, either said by the media or sometimes medical professionals. When we place the person behind the disability we demean them. I don’t want to be known as the big nose girl with glasses the same as someone who walks with a cane doesn’t want to be known by that either.

If we speak and act kindly remembering that we are all people that live, work, laugh, play and love on this great big planet we will make it a better place. Just remember to think before you speak and remember the saying “please let the words I say today be sweet for I may have to eat them tomorrow.”