In this current economic climate, it has become increasingly obvious that people with disabilities are being targeted in a negative way. They are either people living off the system or unfortunates who need our help because they cannot survive independently.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
At the Anthracite Region Center for Independent Living we promote the everyday use of People First Language as part of our emphasis on community living. Language is a powerful tool; it reflects our perceptions of people.
To promote a respectful attitude and develop positive communication with individuals with disabilities, individuals need to incorporate People First Language, which is very simple: It addresses the person, not the disability.
People First Language takes some time in getting used to speaking, however it shows a great deal of respect toward the individual. Instead of the epileptic, an individual is referred to as Joe, who has epilepsy. In this scenario, epilepsy is just a piece of who Joe is not the whole person.
It is important in our communities, health care systems, social service systems and media that individuals with disabilities are awarded the respect they deserve as individuals. The way we speak of them and to them can promote that goal.
The writer is a community organizer assistant for ARCIL.