Person First Language

Read about “Person First Language” and begin to use it in your posts and in our discussions. I don’t want to go overboard insisting on PC language but it is important to remember these are people we’re discussing.

Read: People First Language a commentary by Kathie Snow and The Language Used to Describe Individuals with Disabilities by John Folkins.

11 Responses to “Person First Language”

  1. AlishaH Says:

    I absolutely agree with Kathie Snow in “People First Language.” A disability is not a “problem” or a “defect.” Individual’s with impairments are unique in their own ways. The only issue is the way today’s majority views these individuals. Due to the way we were brought up, we forget to respect these individuals and treat them differently than others. If, perhaps, we started assimilating their lives with ours, we would see how similar we really are. Everyone has dreams, ambitions, and goals. Individuals with impairments are no different. I really do believe that they can achieve their goals if given the chance. Our mindset and closed way of thinking hinders their achievements in many ways. I try to put myself in their shoes, and think, how would I want to be treated? The answer is simple, everyone wants respect. I think the advice in, “The Language used to describe Individuals with Disablities,” by John Folkins is a great start.

  2. ChaseJ Says:

    I agree with Alisha. I never really though about the way I spoke until reading this article and participating in today’s class. Kathie Snow certainly brings the point that they are people… Unfortunately it is set into the minds of many Americans that these people are unequal and incapable of leading “normal lives” while it is the so-called “abled” people that need to change. And I know most, like myself, probably don’t mean to imply negativity; instead I actually say things like, “that blind child,” trying to be kind and PC. It is just interesting to realize that I do this in order to be respectful but I believe it stems from and underlying part of society that places “normal” people distinctly higher than those with disabilities. unwittingly we almost look down to them…. the fact that we even try to be overly sensitive to persons with disabilities is indicative that we see ourselves as different than them. We will all have to learn to see the inside, not the outside, of a person (I know it is cliched, but most cliches stem from people not learning lessons and so they have to be repeated). I mean not to degrade those of us that have tried hard to be kind, because we do it out of good intention, but underlying attitudes of our society are trickling into our speech unnoticed.

  3. SarahT Says:

    After reading these articles, I instantly began thinking of all the times when I didn’t use people first language even though it wasn’t intentional. I also realized, that I never realized the implications that several of the everyday words we use have on other people. It never occurred to me that we are actually hindering others simply by the words we choose and the expectations we have of them! The example that we used in class about the teacher who recieved the wrong test scores really hit home with me because it seems as if we could make a difference in other people’s lives as long as we remain hopefull and have high expectations for them as well as ourselves.

    When we “label” someone, we aren’t doing anything but hurting ourselves in the long run…. It’s just like our parent’s have always told us, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” We need to get to know that person and give them a chance just as we would anyone else…. and when we do this both will benefit from the experience.

    I think the quote from William James in “People First Language” by Katie Snow pretty much sums up a lot of what we have been talking about in class and I believe that we could do a world of good if people would only change their attitudes.

    In my opinion this mistake is one that can be changed as long as people are made aware of what’s considered appropriate and as long as everyone makes an earnest effort to correct their wrong doing…. As mentioned earlier, it all relays back to our attitudes.

  4. JayH Says:

    I am really glad that I had a chance to read those articles because they have taught me to think about what I am saying whenever I refer to a group of people that just lead pretty different lifestyles from a number many other people in society. I am so used to labeling them as “disabled” or viewing them as having a “problem” that I hope could be solved. I haven’t really considered until now that they are just different. Being a minority because of the color of your skin is the same as being one because your needs are different from others. I am now starting to realize that just as I have a different daily routine from my friends, people who use wheelchairs or use the computer instead of pencils and paper to write have a different routine as well.

  5. RyanS Says:

    After reading these two articles I have seriously re-thought the way I go about describing people, especially those people with various medical conditions; as well as all people. We all think of ourselves as normal, yet we all know we have “special” conditions, habits, etc. And we all have our own special abilities, and too be labeled by society is to negate this special ability. In being labeled, your the world is being deprived of your gifts.

  6. BrennaK Says:

    I think Kathie Snow did an excellent job in illustrating how we should think of people with disabilities - just as we would think of anybody else. She is so right in saying that they are “people first.” After reading the article by John Folkins, in which he described correct and polite ways to refer to people with disabilities, I realized that we really need to be careful when speaking about, or to, these people. We should definitely make the effort to be conscious in what we say and how we say it, for everybody’s sake. Both articles stressed the importance of having a good, supportive attitude and of having higher expectations of people with disabilites.

  7. BrennaC Says:

    I found this article very eye opening. I had never thought of the emotional and self image consequences of the typical language used in relation to People with disabilities. It made me feel more consciencous of making sure I use People First Language. I especially found the examples list very interesting and it made it easier to see the simple word changes that create a completly different context and emotion. I also began to realize how a disability doesnt hold a person back, but in fact it is the lable that creates an inaccurate image that can hurt a person. As the article said ” disability is natural”. Everyone is different and just as if you have glasses you should not be labeled any different if you have a wheelchair. I like the fact that the article states “Disability is not a constant state”. It is very interesting to think that a disability is percieved simply because of the invironment in which people are submerged in. This article really makes one think of how to appropiatly call a human being, one with a disability lable or one that is not.

  8. CatherineC Says:

    In the first article, Benjamin’s story was amazing. I was so excited that he liked Harry Potter and the “Terminator” that I didn’t realize he was a seventeen-year-old with cerebral palsy. Herein lies the difference; I’m eighteen, and I prefer “Terminator 2.” Why do people need to see the differences between people with disabilities and themselves when there are so many differences between each other? In a culture that treasures uniqueness, what makes America appreciate blue eyes from hazel ones but feel uncomfortable to confront a worker who happens to use a cane? It is all based upon our perspective on life. The article mentioned that a disability is “frequently more a consequence of the environment and whether a person has the accommodations and tools he needs.” Why does it seem so often that the difference between Benjamin and me is more of a societally awkward situation than the disability that I have accommodating at UNC because I’m out of state? If we look at each other as who we really are (individuals, Harry Potter fans) we will understand the world and help everyone in and out of our environments adjust a bit better in this world.

  9. RandyS Says:

    The article by Katie Snow makes me rethink the language I used to talk about the disabled. She had many great points in her article that is very eye-opening. The choice of words can change every situation. I never really thought that saying words like “not normal”, or “special” were in fact insults to the disabled.

    We do not have the right to judge others, only God has that power.

    I liked the quote by William James in “People First Language”. What we think can have a huge impact on the world. By simply thinking positive about everyone can change this world to a positive world.

  10. BethanyJ Says:

    Just an opinion and not necessarily mine: Her opinion is biased. My first question would be did she ask “disabled” people their opinion and if it bothered them. Was she only projecting onto “disabled” people what she herself feels? I have several issues/problems/defects that are there for everybody to see and one of them in particular is “disabling”, not as severely as we view “disabled” people, but disabling just the same. Another is very visible and many people notice and comment about it. She mentioned psoriasis and my skin disease is like it; I have eczema. People comment about it and ask me about it and their number one question immediately following me telling them I have eczema is: Is it contagious? I would say a lot of my life I have been somewhat identified by it. But it is what it is. A genetic skin disorder, skin disease, skin problem. People many times approach me about it warily or accuse me of having a cat that scratched me up or worse a family member that beats me. If other people want to say my condition disables me, that’s fine with me, cause I know it doesn’t. I do know my limitations, such as I have to wear gloves to clean and cannot stretch out my fingers all the way before putting lotion on my hands. I think coming from this perspective, that the biggest thing is to not pity people because of their natural circumstances. They cannot change what they were born with any more than I can change that I have a skin disease. But also, just like I have to have help taking care of my skin, people with “disabilities” have to have help to become the best they can be. And honestly, we all have to have help becoming the best we can be. There isn’t a single person out there that hasn’t been influenced one way or another by someone else, there just isn’t. None of us would be who we are without the help of other people. Maybe our attitude change should be something along the lines of “Here I am Lord, send me.” instead of “Surely not me Lord, surely there is someone else more qualified.” All of the people in the world without visible disabilities have one disability more powerful than any other in the world: fear.

  11. ChristyS Says:

    I know I am writing this late to the assignment but I din’t realize we were blogging on this assignment. (I did read it on time ^_^)

    People First Language was introduced to me about five ( eighth grade) years ago. Today I still struggle with using the right language because the wrong language is ingrained into our society. Reading these articles was a good reminder to me about how to use people first language.

    What stikes me the most about people first language is to remember they have likes and dislikes, feelings, wants, and needs just like us. These characteristics should define them.
    I really agree with what BrennaK, AlishaH, and CatherineC said about the article.

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