People Should Not Be Defined By Their Disabilities
Start writing a post
Health and Wellness

People Should Not Be Defined By Their Disabilities

People Should Not Be Defined By Their Disabilities

Autistic. The Downs Girl.

Special Ed Kids.

Disabled woman.

The "slow" boy.

Mentally ill.

Handicapped people.

Mentally Challenged.


Are you cringing yet?

You should be. A lot of words that we use in society are not just incorrect, but hurtful. Maybe you say some of these things and do not realize they are incorrect. You probably use some of these words, but you "don't mean it that way."

What's wrong with saying things that seem pretty normal? It is what it is, and you are just saying what they are, right?

Wrong. People should never be defined by their disabilities. "Person-First Language" is a movement familiar to anyone who works in education, occupational therapy or loves someone with a disability. Person-First Language means that you always acknowledge the person first, then their disability, if necessary . You don't know any autistic boys, but you probably know some boys with Autism. You don't know any Down people, but you know some pretty cool people with Down Syndrome. The same goes for mentally ill people: they are people with mental illnesses.

People are always people first. Then they are people with disabilities. Why define someone as 'autistic' when they are a smart, athletic, loving, and generous human who happens to have autism? After all, are you talking to a disability, or are you talking to a person? You are not talking to Down Syndrome, ADHD, Depression, a wheelchair, Autism or any other condition. You are talking to a child, student, camper, co-worker, employee, brother, sister, or friend who might use a wheelchair or have a disability.

Patti Mcvay is an education expert who has a great way of thinking for when you are not sure how to correctly speak about someone.

  • Think of something that you don’t like about yourself, that society has also deemed less desirable.
  • Now take that word and put it in front of your name and imagine being called that word plus your name. Fat Sarah. Or Big-Nosed Katie. Annoying Voice Kevin. Short Tim.

That should put it in perspective. No, these things do not define you and are not flaws, just like people with disabilities are not flawed or defined by their disability. But do we want these to be acknowledged before who we are as a person is acknowledged? Not likely. Essentially, you should just remember that a person's disability should never turn into an adjective to describe them.

Terms like "mentally challenged," "handicapped," and "slow" are just unnecessary. They might have been correct in previous generations, but they are not acceptable anymore. When it comes to using the r-word, most users respond with "It's just slang," or "I don't mean it that way when I say it." But there's a reason that so many people are pledging against the r-word. It is negative, derogatory, and exclusive. Maybe it isn't a big deal to you, but it is important to individuals who are disrespected by the term.

Put effort into giving people the respect they deserve. Think before you speak. Acknowledge all individuals, whether they are four or 80 years old, big or small, talented or unique, with respectful language and attitudes.

To learn more about Person-First Language, visit: National Inclusion Project.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

A Beginner's Wine Appreciation Course

While I most certainly do not know everything, I feel like I know more than the average 21-year-old about vino, so I wrote this beginner's wine appreciate course to help YOU navigate the wine world and drink like a pro.


Keep Reading... Show less

Who doesn't love ice cream? People from all over the world enjoy the frozen dessert, but different countries have their own twists on the classic treat.

Keep Reading... Show less

As any other person on this planet, it sometimes can be hard to find the good in things. However, as I have always tried my hardest to find happiness in any and every moment and just generally always try to find the best in every situation, I have realized that your own happiness is much more important than people often think. Finding the good in any situation can help you to find happiness in some of the simplest and unexpected places.

Keep Reading... Show less

Remember The True Meaning of Christmas

“Where are you Christmas? Why can’t I find you?”


It’s everyone’s favorite time of year. Christmastime is a celebration, but have we forgotten what we are supposed to be celebrating? There is a reason the holiday is called Christmas . Not presentmas. Not Santamas. Not Swiftmas. Christmas.

boy standing in front of man wearing santa claus costume Photo by __ drz __ on Unsplash

What many people forget is that there is no Christmas without Christ . Not only is this a time to spend with your family and loved ones, it is a time to reflect on the blessings we have gotten from Jesus. After all, it is His birthday.

Keep Reading... Show less

Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore my dog . I am constantly talking about my love for her. I attribute many of my dog's amazing qualities to her breed. She is a purebred Golden Retriever, and because of this I am a self-proclaimed expert on why these are the best pets a family could have. Here are 11 reasons why Goldens are the undisputed best dog breed in the world.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments