Hey there, beauties! We hope you're feeling incredibly empowered today! Our topic for today is something we often read in news articles, hear on TV, heck, I even hear it as I roll down the street. Using any adjective that focuses on a person’s challenges highlights those challenges instead of that individual as a person. It's a topic that honestly needs to be addressed. It’s not about being “politically correct.” It’s about respecting people in all their diversity. When people use an adjective to define a person with a disability, it is wrong and we want change that.
So how do we fix this? Society needs to embrace “People First Language”. We believe strongly that we must stop believing the lies of labels. The paradigm must shift and we must see children and adults who live with disabilities as unique and EMPOWERED, with endless potential.
So what is People First Language exactly? People First Language (PFL) is defined as a type of linguistic description to avoid marginalization or dehumanization (either conscious or subconscious) when discussing people with a health issue or disability. Individuals with disabilities make up our nation's largest minority group. It is also the most inclusive and diverse; both genders, any sexual orientation, all ages and ethnicity are represented. Yet, no disability ever matches another. They are all different and so are the individuals who live with them.
The theory of People First Language may be easier to understand when we put it in practice with an example. Instead of using the phrase,“Wheelchair-bound Shannon is an advocate for people with disabilities”, the People First Language version would be, “Shannon is among many things- a mom, a blogger, an advocate for people with disabilities, who just happens to use a wheelchair for mobility because of Cerebral Palsy.”
The one thing people with disabilities have in common is the fact that we are often on the receiving end of societal prejudice, misunderstanding, and worst of all discrimination. The ironic thing is that persons with disabilities are the largest minority and any person can become a part of it at anytime! Disability does not discriminate. It just happens to be that some (like myself) are born with a disability, others in the blink of an by an accident, some thru illness, and most commonly thru the aging process. This means that eventually it could even happen to you! Knowing this truth begs the question: How will you want to be described or treated?
A person's self image is strongly tied to the words used to describe them. For generations, people with disabilities have been described using negative stereotypical words, which have in turn created harmful preconceptions.
All people deserve the respect of being identified as a person first, rather than only seen or perceived by limitations. It is of the utmost importance that we as a society begin to understand that our words have meaning. By choosing to use People First Language, we are also choosing to put the person before the disability and allowing individuals to define themselves.
The honest truth is, when we make a conscious effort to use People First Language, we encourage others to do the same. It’s amazing how quickly mindsets can change in terms of disability. As we at Slick Chicks often say, “A small change can make the biggest difference."
The use of People First Language is not about being politically correct. It is, instead, about respect. Therefore, people who live with disabilities, must use their voices to shout WE ARE NOT OUR DISABILITY! We, as people first, must find the courage and be empowered to paint society a new picture of what a disabled person looks like. The first step in doing so is to educate society on the importance of PFL.
Our belief is that people with disabilities are to be included in all aspects of society and they're to be respected and valued as the fellow citizens they are. Because people with disabilities are – first and foremost – people who have individual abilities, interests and needs. They are moms, dads, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, neighbors, coworkers, students and teachers. Their contributions enrich our communities and society as they live, work and share their lives. This means it is time we stop using language that devalues them and sets them apart.
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