Who knew that as an individual with a disability, it’s our responsibility, to guide non-disabled people as to our choice of language to use about ourselves?
I knew there were going to be a lot of adjustments when I became chronically ill but I really didn’t anticipate this one!
The dehumanisation of the disabled has been, and continues to be, a huge issue and so choosing the type of language we want to be referred to by is a reminder to the outside world that we are still real people.
As shocking as it is, it’s still all too common to hear people saying things like “the disabled”, or referring to someone as “a wheelchair”. This is an attempt to separate us in society so non-disabled people don’t have to think about our wants, needs, rights or feelings.
So it’s time to take control of the narrative and dictate whether you want to be spoken of in person first or identity first language.
Let’s dive into exactly what these actually mean.
First up – person first language. This is what’s used by the majority of government and non-government institutions and is the general idea that a person’s disability shouldn’t be unnecessarily focused on, and we should put the person before their disability.
In practice, an example of this would be saying “a person with a disability.”
Who tends to prefer person first language?
There’s no hard and fast rule but usually it’s people who feel that they’re seen in society as just their disability but they want to remind people of all the other things that make them up as an individual as well.
Now for identity first language. The focus of this is claiming your disability as something that you’re proud of! Loud and proud baby! For people who prefer identity first language you shouldn’t be afraid to call them disabled because they don’t see it as a bad thing.
In practice the focus of this is to take away th fear of acknowledging someones disability.
In short, the most important thing to remember is that as a person with a disability, there’s no right or wrong here. It’s purely down to your personal preference!
And if you’re non-disabled, and still confused about which to use, just ask the individual what they would prefer. It’s a sign of respect so don’t be scared. We don’t bite, I promise!