Person First: Not the Disability

People first, not the disability is a philosophy and approach that emphasizes the importance of recognizing individuals as people before focusing on their disabilities. The idea is to promote respect, dignity, and inclusion by acknowledging that a person’s disability is just one aspect of their identity. In addition, it empowers individuals with disabilities to define themselves and their identities, rather than being defined solely by their disabilities.

Person-first language emphasizes putting the person first rather than their disability. The purpose of using person-first language is to recognize the individual’s humanity, dignity, and worth before acknowledging their disability. Person-first language helps shift the focus from the disability to the person’s identity, abilities, and experiences. By emphasizing the person first, this approach helps reduce the stigma and stereotypes often associated with disabilities. In addition, it reinforces the importance of treating individuals with disabilities as equals, valuing their contributions, and providing them with the same opportunities as everyone else. 

Here are some examples of person-first language:

Instead of saying “disabled person,” you can say “person with a disability.”

Instead of saying “ADHD child,” you can say “child with ADHD.”

Instead of saying “wheelchair-bound,” you can say “a person who uses a wheelchair.”

Instead of saying “the deaf,” you can say “individuals who are deaf.”

Although, it is important to remember that not everyone within the disability community prefers person-first language, and some individuals may have their own preferences for how they are described. Therefore, it’s a good practice to listen to and respect the preferences of individuals when referring to them.

Overall, person first, not the disability, is about fostering a more inclusive and respectful society where individuals with disabilities are seen and treated as whole people with their own unique qualities and potential. It encourages us to interact with others in a way that focuses on their abilities, strengths, and shared humanity rather than on any limitations or differences they may have due to their disabilities.

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