The power of language.

Inclusive language can make all the difference. Learn how to rephrase problematic language and break down stereotypes.

1.You should be aware of person-first language, instead of disability-first language

If a person with disability wants to refer to themselves as disabled that’s obviously their choice and that’s perfectly okay. However, if you don’t have a disability you should be aware of person-first language.

By using disability-first language (i.e. calling someone disabled rather than a person with a disability) you are limiting that person down to one character trait. How would you feel if everyone else insisted on referring to you by one singular characteristic? Here are some examples:

handicapped, disabled — person with a disability

Autistic — has autism

Learning disabled — has a learning disability

Mentally retarded — has an intellectual disability

2. Don’t erase someone’s identity by referring to them as handi-capable, or differently-abled.

By calling someone differently-abled instead of a person with a disability, you are actually erasing the fact that they are disabled. That’s like calling a gay person differently-heterosexual — it just doesn’t quite add up, and it puts the community several steps backward.

3. Don’t use language that assumes people with disabilities are incompetent

People often use the wording, “suffers from cerebral palsy” or “wheelchair bound.” Yet, having a disability is an identity that people take pride in and using words like “suffers from” is a form of ableism and makes the assumption that their life is inferior — and that simply isn’t true. Also, a wheelchair gives people with disabilities access — they are in fact the opposite of bound. A wheelchair is a tool that gives them freedom.

Abelism: When you assume a person with disability’s life is inferior and somehow less valuable than an able body person’s life.

4. Stay far away from language that pities people with disabilities

There is no reason to ever send prayers to someone with disabilities who is a stranger. Would you do that to an able-bodied person on the street? People with disabilities don’t want tissues, they want equality and representation. They are leaders, bosses, mothers, fathers, athletes, politicians, dancers, actors, activists, designers, inventors, trailblazers, scientists, doctors, etc. - and they don’t need anyone’s pity.