In the last few decades, America has made great strides in the acceptance and integration of people with disabilities into society. This is something that we can and should be proud of, but we can always strive to do even better. A simple way that everyone can help educate people about disability etiquette Philadelphia is to use “people first” language.
What “People First” Language Is
As the name suggests, “people first” is a nomenclature that emphasizes a person with disabilities as being just that, a person who happens to have a disability. While thankfully, most slurs and reprehensible derogatory terms for people with medical conditions and handicaps have been discarded by polite society, some terms emphasize disabilities over personhood.
How “People First” Language is Helpful
To that end, consider this: calling a person with autism “an autistic” inadvertently defines them by their condition. The same goes for “diabetics” or “the handicapped.” The simple act of referring to them as “people with diabetes” or “people with handicaps” gives them power and takes power away from their condition.
Many wonderful organizations and programs have emerged in the last generation to help build a more inclusive society for people with physical and mental disabilities alike. The Americans with Disabilities Act has evolutionized accessibility for people with special adaptive needs by requiring ramps and elevators. Many school systems have all-needs, integrated classrooms that allow for the students with special education needs to study in their least restrictive environment. That means they only need to leave the classroom for very specialized one-on-one work occasionally.
“People first” language is certainly a small gesture, but it is a simple, thoughtful, and meaningful one. Empowering and inspiring people with disabilities harms no-one, and it makes a positive impact on them and our society. Train yourself to put people first!