Disability-Related Language Standards

Disability-Related Language Standards
in Written Assignments
GS 420 SDSU
Students are expected to submit well-thought-out and well-written assignments.
Failure to proofread and edit assignments, and failure to use appropriate language
(relevant and respectful terminology related to disability) will result in points loss.
(Please seek help at the SDSU Writing Center if your English writing abilities are not
yet proficient.)
In determining appropriate disability-related language, you will need to educate
yourself about diverse perspectives when it comes to language use. At this point in
time, it is standard disability etiquette to use person-first/people-first language.
However, it is important to understand and respect identity-first language as well.
Person-First Language
For the purposes of this course, you will be expected to use person-first language
and dignifying language as a way to demonstrate consciousness about respecting
people with disabilities. In general, person-first language is appropriate to use if you
are not immersed in the field of disability (which is most GS 420 students) or if your
audience consists of children, youth, and/or general lay people who do not know
about the social model of disability. Person-first language is an educational tool that is
widely embraced by a diverse array of people with disabilities, and allies and
organizations that support them. It is encouraged in written publications. GS 420
students need to become intimately familiar with person-first language and language
that promotes dignity and use it for all assignments.
Identity-First Language
Identity-first language is appropriate if you are a person who experiences disability
and prefers identity-first language. It is also appropriate if you are a person immersed
in disability culture who understands the social model of disability. And out of
respect, if you are referring to or speaking with someone who identifies with their
disability first, you should feel comfortable in using identity-first language. If you can
argue your case and satisfactorily justify your use of identity-first language in your
assignments from a disability studies perspective, then we will excuse your use of
non-person-first language. But, within each assignment, you must clearly identify
yourself as a person who qualifies to use identify-first language, as described above.
(You should do this in parentheses immediately following any sentence using identityfirst
language). Note: Many in the Deaf and autistic communities prefer identity-first
language.
See some examples of person-first language and dignifying language choices on the
next page.
Promoting Respectful Language
Person-First Language Suggestions
Don’t Say… Instead Say…
Down syndrome children Children who have Down syndrome
The disabled
Disabled people (unless you can justify from
disability studies perspective)
People with disabilities
People who have disabilities
People who experience disability
The mentally ill People with mental health disabilities or People
who experience mental illness or mental health
disabilities
Wheelchair children Children who use wheelchairs
Autistic boy Boy who experiences or has autism
Boy who is autistic
(note: some self-advocates do prefer “autistic
boy”/identity-first language)
Cerebral Palsy people People who experience Cerebral Palsy
People who have Cerebral Palsy
Dignifying Language Suggestions
*Terminology changes as society changes. These guidelines are fluid and will hopefully
change in years to come as our society becomes more inclusive.
Person-First & Identity-First Language Links
Here are some resources which further explain the distinctions between person-first
and identity-first language, and inspiration porn.
Disability is Natural – People First Language by Kathie Snow
https://www.disabilityisnatural.com/people-first-language.html
Why person-first language doesn’t always put the person first
https://www.thinkinclusive.us/why-person-first-language-doesnt-always-put-theperson-
first/
Don’t Say… Instead Say…
Dying of AIDS Living with AIDS
“Suffers from” dyslexia
“Suffers from” autism
“Suffers from” anything
Experiences/ has dyslexia
Experiences/ has autism
Experiences/ has …
Wheelchair-bound/Confined to/Bound to a
wheelchair
Uses a wheelchair
Wheelchair user
Is disabled but is very successful Is successful and has a disability/is disabled
(only point out disability if relevant)
Special needs kids Kids with disabilities
Kids who have disabilities
Kids who experience disability
Handicapped restroom/stall, parking Accessible restroom/stall, parking
GS 420 students are also expected to stay away from inspiration porn in all
assignments. See Stella Young TEDx Talk (link on the last page) for further explanation
of inspiration porn.
Inspiration Porn Links
Stella Young TEDx Talk: Inspiration Porn and the Objectification of Disability

Wikipedia: Inspiration Porn
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inspiration_porn

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