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Let’s talk about person first language 

The past couple of decades have seen a shift in how disabilities are talked about. There are now mandated ways by health organisations and even legal organisations and governments where they are phasing out colonial and regressive words like mentally retarded for example. These words are replaced and inclusive language and vocabulary is the way to go when we want to discuss disabilities. 

One aspect of this movement to make language more inclusive is person first language. An important point, we wish general public and media know the basis and basics of person first language and how it addresses disabled members of the society. 

The idea behind person first language is exactly what it sounds like – to put the person before the condition. To not define a person by their identity. This also means we need to phase out things like “suffering from” and “afflicted with” when we refer to people’s conditions. 

Two simple pointers – 

    – Describe what a person has, and not what a person is 

    – Phase out regressive words like retarded, crippled, insane and substitute with person with intellectual disability, has a disability and person with mental health condition for instance 

The person first language is an act against ableism and in the ways current language and terminologies is insensitive to people with disabilities. But there’s a catch. 

When describing people with disabilities, some people prefer an identity-first language instead of a person first language. Especially in the population with Autism, individuals prefer to think of Autism as a different way of seeing the world and not an impediment or disability. 

What we need at this point is more sensitivity to deal with the preferences of different communities and tailor our communication accordingly. But if you would like to stick with person first language, here are some helpful phrases to include in your vocabulary – 

– People with disabilities 

– X has Autism instead of autistic individual 

– Children with disabilities 

– X has a learning disability 

As we all take on more important problems of inclusion and accessibility, the language we use becomes more important. We hope this little primer will help you on your way to a richer, contemporary, sensitive vocabulary.

If you have questions about Autism, Down Syndrome, ADHD, or other intellectual disabilities, or have concerns about developmental delays in a child, the Nayi Disha team is here to help. For any questions or queries, please contact our FREE Helpline at 844-844-8996. You can call or what’s app us. Our counselors speak different languages including English, Hindi, Malayalam, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, and Bengali. 

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this article is for information purposes only.



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