Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Treading lightly and thoughtfully around language and disability

There's plenty of advice and opinion, but there is no single 'correct' language - the best guide is what the person with the disability prefers ...

Journalists should learn to carefully traverse a variety of disability terminology
Beth Haller, National Center on Disability and Journalism (University of Arizona), 7 January 2016
... The one thing that both sides of the terminology discussion agree on is that language about disability is important, so journalists must clearly understand language preferences when reporting on disability issues ...

Inclusive Language
Australian Network on Disability, undated
... the most important thing you can remember is to simply focus on the person, rather than the disability. Don’t be so afraid of saying the wrong thing that you don’t say anything at all – relax, and just be willing to communicate.

We were alerted to this short, but powerful advice on thoughtful language by Carly Findlay, via Facebook:
"Instead of telling disabled kids “you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it,” I think we should tell them, “the things you are capable of doing matter.” 
A person can’t live on an increasingly strained hope that someday they’ll be good enough.
...  Fully Articulated, Fully Capable of Skeleton Dance, 24th December 2015
On the other hand, if you want to start a robust discussion, try using 'low functioning'/'high functioning'  about people with disability - see this 2014 post for more.

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