The words we choose help shape attitudes and perceptions. It is essential that all language is sensitive and respectful, helps break down barriers, and opens lines of communication and acceptance.
The terms “disabilities” and “disabled” include a broad range of physical and cognitive conditions, both visible and invisible. People’s perceptions of disabilities vary widely. It’s not always necessary to mention a person’s disability when writing about or talking to that person.
It is necessary, however, to recognize the diversity, richness and complexity of disability and identity. Some people may prefer to identify first with their disability because they see it as an integral part of their lives. Other people may choose person-first language and prefer to be seen as a person with a disability. Learn more about the difference between identity-first and people-first language here.
Everyone is unique and personal preference should always be honored in all interactions, whether face-to-face or in written communication. Most people prefer to be identified by name, not a diagnosis.
Honoring how a person chooses to describe themselves is where respect and inclusion begin.
The term “Mental Retardation” is no longer acceptable, even as a medical diagnosis. It should never be used. Advocates have been successful in getting this phrase removed from federal and state laws.