Shaping attitudes through person-first language
Journalists, public speakers, human service providers, educators and other communicators play a critical role in changing attitudes toward disability. This is not political correctness but a fundamental responsibility to communicate a straightforward image of people with disabilities or those with chronic health conditions.
Since 1984 the Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL) has distributed more than 1 million copies of its groundbreaking style sheet, Guidelines for Reporting and Writing About People with Disabilities. With its succinct explanation of person-first language, the brochure has become the gold standard for describing disability issues in a way that does not perpetuate perceptions that can lead to discrimination.
Developed with input from more than 100 national disability groups, the guidelines have been adopted by the Associated Press and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and are referenced in the American Psychological Association’s Publications Manual 6th Edition.
The seventh edition of the Guidelines is now available, along with a poster called “Your Words, Our Image” which lists negative and positive terminology for describing people with disabilities – a quick reference useful for public display or in offices and classrooms.
“How authors, scientists and reporters write and report on people with disabilities has great influence on society’s perceptions of this oft-forgotten demographic population,” says Glen W. White, RTC/IL director. “‘Your Words, Our Image is more than a slogan. It’s a call to responsible and accurate portrayal that does not objectify or treat people with disabilities as mere human-interest stories. Rather, it focuses on the humanity of the individual and the fact that the experience of disability is a natural part of being human.”