I found a great resource from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association on people first language. This is important to understand the powers of our words. If you are talking to someone with a disability using proper language will go a long way. Besides it being good practice it is the right thing to do. Check out some of their information below. This is copied directly from their website and please follow the link below for more information.
Principle One: Person-First Language
Use person-first language. Disabilities are not persons and they do not define persons, so do not replace person-nouns with disability-nouns. [ 1][ 2]
• the aphasic
• the schizophrenic
• cleft palates
• the hearing impaired
Further, emphasize the person, not the disability, by putting the person-noun first.
• people with cleft palate
• the lawyer who has dyslexia
• persons who stutter
• the speech of children with language impairment
• the speech of individuals who stutter
• cleft palate children
• the hearing impaired client
• the dyslexic lawyer
• the retarded adult
Is there a difference between to be and to have? Between saying a person "with a hearing loss" and saying a person "is hearing impaired"? Some have suggested that to have may imply possession and to be may imply identity. [ 3] Thus they argue that it is less stigmatizing to use have than be.
"The deaf" and "the speech of the deaf" also violate the person-first rule. However, the community of persons who are deaf prefer to use deaf with a capital D to denote the Deaf culture and the Deaf community, not the hearing loss. As a general rule, we may wish to follow the preferences of a disability group, even if it violates other principles. The problems with following the desires of different groups occur when one doesn't know what the members of a group want or when the preferences of individuals in a group differ.
In my opinion, "stuttered speech" is okay. "Stuttered" describes the speech. "Cleft palate speech" is not okay, because the person (not the speech) has the cleft. However, "deaf speech" violates this rule; yet many people believe that "deaf speech" is acceptable.
Person-first language makes sentences more complicated. The consensus of the Publications Board on November 19, 1992, was that deviations from person-first language should be allowed in cases when the only alternative is awkward sentence structure. When publishing research reports in ASHA journals, it is important to describe individuals with sensitivity. There are no absolute rules in regard to what language is sensitive and what language is not sensitive. Clearly, the most appropriate approaches may differ across different circumstances and different types of publications.
The clarity of research papers may be affected if one is required to use person-first language every time a group of subjects from a specific population is mentioned. One approach may be to describe populations with person-nouns first in the initial description of the subjects. Then one can refer to these descriptions throughout the rest of the paper. It is more important to use person-first language when describing individuals making up a group than when referring to the group. That is, although it may be preferable to say "the group of individuals who are dysarthric" than to say "the group of dysarthrics," when stylistically necessary, it may be appropriate to use "the dysarthric group." The general rule is that person-first language is more important than group-first language.
There are many examples in which we do categorize people and omit the person-noun and the person-first position; for example, the audiologist (as opposed to "the person who performs audiological services"), the speech-language pathologist, the professor, the professional, the teacher, the grandparent, the leader, the pacifist, the hypocrite, et cetera. One could make the case that we should not categorize the person by these attributes. Yet, "the person who grandmothers" is difficult to support as an alternative to "grandmother."
When the categorizing is negative, person-first language might be preferable. "The person with a criminal record" may be better than "the criminal." However, we may need to do the same thing for both positive and negative attributes. If we use person-first language only for negative attributes, then person-first language could take on a negative connotation. The way out of this is to assert that it is proper for society to categorize people without person-first language in many instances, but that disabilities are not one of them. Disabilities need not be defining characteristics in the way that a profession or role in society is. There are many circumstances in which it may be appropriate to use the terms disability, disorder, or impairment. One needs to be sensitive to when it is, and when it is not, appropriate to use terms with a negative connotation.
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