The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.Mark Twain
Words Matter. The right choice of a word can show understanding and respect and give dignity to persons with disabilities. The wrong word can further stereotypes, create barriers and be demeaning and hurtful. People First Language puts the person before the disability. People First Language is not political correctness; instead, it demonstrates good manners and respect.
The news media plays an important role in educating the public on disability issues. News stories often use negative stereotypes or fail to tell the story from the perspective of people with disabilities. They often focus on the disabilities when they are not a critical part of the story.
It is not unusual to feel awkward when interacting with someone with a disability. Following some basic tips on etiquette will help everyone feel more comfortable.
– Ask First. Don’t assume a person needs help – offer assistance only if there appears to be a need.
– Respect their Space. Don’t touch their body or equipment, even if you are trying to help, unless you have their permission.
– Speak Directly to the Person with the Disability. Not to their companions or aides.
– Assume Competence. Don’t assume that a person with a disability cannot speak for themselves and decide what is best for them.
– Respond Positively to Requests for Accommodations or Assistance. Don’t look at it is a complaint, but a learning opportunity.