The Power of Words
It has been nearly 25 years since Kathie Snow, an author and public speaker, published her first article addressing the notion of “People-First Language”. Inspired by her son Benjamin, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was four months old, Snow encouraged everyone to utilize “People-First Language”, which puts the person before the disability and describes what a person has, not who a person is. For example, saying “she has autism” instead of “she’s autistic” or “people with disabilities” instead of “the handicapped or disabled”.
Fast forward to 2016 and Snow is still making the rounds to educate parents, educators, and the general public about language sensitivity and an updated article entitled “To Ensure Inclusion, Freedom, and Respect for all, we must use People First Language” is utilized as a handout for training programs around the country. In the article, Snow makes several interesting observations including the fact that “people with disabilities constitute our nation’s largest minority group” (one in five Americans has a condition that is considered to be a disability) and also points out that this group is the only one that any person can become a part of, at any time.
Each person struggles and succeeds in different ways. There are very few people out there who would prefer to be categorized by their “problems” (whether it is a physical disability, depression, anxiety, obesity, anorexia, or a number of other common issues) rather than the qualities, talents, and characteristics that make us all unique. The sooner we embrace and utilize “People-First Language”, the sooner we can embrace each other as individuals and work to make this world a better place for everyone.