Respect, awareness and good will can make a world of difference when speaking to someone with a disability or with a disability different from our own. Even the most “woke” person gets tripped up occasionally: Do I say dwarf or little person? Hearing impaired, hard-of-hearing, or “person with a hearing disability”? If a person with cerebral palsy welcomes the term “crip,” does this apply to most people with a motor disability? Should I use person-first language or disability-first language? (For more on this difference, see below.)
The times and language are changing rapidly, as are the ways people with disabilities are choosing to identify themselves. Disability represents a form of diversity – similar to gender, race, religion, ethnicity and social class – and requires the same sensitivity when it comes to the way we address and refer to one another.
Below is a quick guide (adapted from paraquad.org) for respectful, mindful disability language. These suggestions aren’t meant to make anyone feel policed, self-conscious or shamed. Educate yourself on current, accepted terms. Still unsure how to address or refer to someone with a disability? Don’t guess! Ask the person directly, remembering most of us would still rather be referred to by our name than a label.
Words to avoid:
Cripple, handicapped, invalid, victim, afflicted with, confined to a wheelchair, normal (when referring to a non-disabled person), deaf-mute, birth defect, crazy/insane/mental patient, slow, mentally retarded, underachiever, deformed, handicapable, differently abled, disfigured, abnormal, palsied, spastic, physically challenged, manic, maimed, incapacitated, high-functioning/low-functioning, “special” and special needs.
Words to use:
Person with a disability, disabled, uses a wheelchair, non-disabled or able-bodied, deaf, hard of hearing, psychiatric history, emotional disorder, consumer of mental health services, epilepsy/seizures, learning disability, ADD/ADHD, developmental disability, cognitive disability, born with.
Many of the “words to avoid” are obvious. But language is not only ever-changing, it possesses layers of meaning, history and nuance. Inherent in words like invalid or victim is the belief that disabled people are “less than” able-bodied people. Ableism itself isn’t a new phenomenon, of course, though the term itself might be for some. And it has a way of slipping into our everyday language. We call people “crazy.” We say someone made a “dumb” choice or a “lame” excuse.
Andrew Pulrang, who writes a regular column for Forbes magazine on disability practices, policy, politics and culture, (link below), explains that “the harm of terms and uses like this is indirect, but no less real. They all reinforce the idea that a good way to describe bad things is to compare them to disabilities, or to disabled people.”
The good news, according to Pulrang, however, is that ableist language is also “unnecessary,” given a reasonable amount of awareness, creativity and, above all, care.
To learn more about respectful disability language, please check out these sources:
“It’s Time to Stop Even Casually Misusing Disability Words,” Andrew Pulrang in Forbes:
“The harmful ableist language you unknowingly use” – BBC’s Equality Matters
“Respectful Disability Language: Here’s What’s Up!” – NYLN (National Youth Leadership Network)
“Choosing Words for Talking About Disability” – American Psychological Association
“Disability Language Style Guide’ - National Center on Disability and Journalism
“Disability-Inclusive-Language-Guidelines” - Prepared by the United Nations Office at Geneva as part of efforts to implement the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, launched in 2019.
WHAT COMES FIRST: The choice is personal and both are appropriate
Person-first language places the “person” before the “disability” and is intended to emphasize personhood over impairment. Person with a disability …
Disability-first language (or identity-first language) places “disabled” before the person, emphasizing that disability is an important part of one's identity. Disabled person …
As we move towards 2022 and 2024, Democrats Abroad’s International Executive Committee is determined to make our systems and structures even more diverse, professional, and sustainable––and ultimately more effective for our work ahead.
In order to do so, we continue building robust global teams and invite you to become a part of them through this call for applications! Our goal is to have an inclusive, transparent, and fair appointment process. We need you to be a part of our work!
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. All members of Democrats Abroad are encouraged to apply and to share the call for applications with other U.S. citizens who might be interested.
If you are not interested in acting as the team lead but rather in a supporting role, we still encourage you to contact us at [email protected] and share a bit about yourself. Thank you!
Deputy International Secretary (3 positions, one for each of DA's regions)
Get-Out-The-Vote Coordinator (Applicants from Americas Region only)
Democrats Abroad is committed to the values and practices of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, with opportunities to provide and the ability to take feedback and learn. It is our policy to recruit, train, promote, and administer any and all personnel actions without regard to sex, race, age, color, creed, national origin, religion, pregnancy, economic status, sexual orientation, veteran status, gender identity or expression, ethnic identity, disability, or any other legally protected basis.
Fellow Democrats Abroad, did you know that in the United States if you have a disability, you have a right to accommodations when using App-based rides services like Uber and Lyft? If you are being charged fees because it takes you longer to get to your ride, then that may be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act or other applicable laws or regulations. The US Department of Justice has sued Uber for this kind of practice. Uber has denied any wrongdoing. However, if you have a disability and think that you were charged unfairly as a result, then make sure to let your driver know that you took longer to get to the vehicle because of your disability and ask them to let Uber know and to waive the fee. Remember though that Uber makes the policies, not the drivers.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) / Office of Public Affairs (OPA) / JUSTICE NEWS
Justice Department Sues Uber for Overcharging People with Disabilities https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-sues-uber-overcharging-people-disabilities
The Justice Department today filed an ADA lawsuit against Uber for charging “wait time” fees to passengers who, because of disability, take longer than two minutes to get in their Uber car. Individuals who believe they have been victims of disability discrimination by Uber because they, or someone they were traveling with, were charged wait time fees should contact the Justice Department at 833-591-0425 (toll-free), 202-305-6786, or send an email to [email protected]. For more information about the ADA, call the Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or access the ADA website at ada.gov.
The EMEA Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC) announces candidates for the EMEA RVC election to be held on May 16, 2021 at the EMEA regional meeting during the global annual meeting (May 14-16, 2021). Please be reminded that one vote is allocated to each DA country committee in EMEA and will be cast by country committee chairs and vice chairs.
The following are the verified and confirmed candidates listed in alphabetical order.
We are pleased to call for nominations of candidates for the position of Regional Vice Chair (RVC) for Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) region. The election for this position will take place online at the EMEA Regional Meeting on Sunday, May 16th as part of the Democrats Abroad (DA) Global Meeting. One vote is allocated to each DA country committee in EMEA and will be cast by country committee chairs and vice chairs.Read more
Kristi Holmes Espineira's Democratic Party roots cross generations. Growing up, both her parents were professional educators with a strong commitment to working in economically disadvantaged communities with the long term goal of improving American diversity. Throughout the 60s, her mom helped to transition recently integrated schools; her dad worked directly for the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Arizona. Kristi's parents did not regard their work as "political party activism," per se. Rather, their goal was simply and literally to "do what was right." The intrinsic importance of diversity and equality was regularly the focus of dinner table conversations. Kristi's mom remains both socially and politically active today. Among Kristi's favorite "mom" memories is attending together a Barack Obama rally in 2012 and marching together in the Women's March in 2017.Read more
You can easily help people in neighborhood or city cast their ballots and learn about Democrats Abroad by hosting a Ballot Assistance Event (BAE). A BAE is a publicized event held at your convenience between March 3 and March 10, where you provide instructions to Americans on how to make sure their vote counts––both this March and in November.
My name is Robyn T. Emerson; I’m the lead country coordinator for Kenya and Co-Chair of the Black Caucus here. I have traveled, studied, or worked in every corner of the United States, with my last port-of-call and my voting district being Austin, Texas. I am proud to say I have knocked on thousands of doors, managed hundreds of phone banks, did hundreds of advance work, coordinated hundreds of rides to polls all for the belief in collective power and justice prevailing. I’ve now lived in Kenya for over ten years, where creating communities and empowering people continues.
I’m an urban planner and a consummate organizer. People of color, more specifically people of African descent, are staggering in the life-affirming statistics and leading in the life-threatening statistics. Despite this, we keep rising; we keep singing, we keep fighting.
Living in what #45 considers a sh**hole country and the U.S. clamping down on immigration and refugee permissions out of nationalism and racism, I can not stand for its continuance another moment. With brilliant Americans living in Kenya, we aim to make our voices known and count on issues impacting African Americans. We’ve coined this 13-months to Change, being inspired by the 13th amendment. We will continue community socializing, sharing information, and taking action as a community of African-Americans. We will make a concerted effort to cast the net wider by having monthly meet-ups, connecting the dots between oppression & discrimination here to the experience on the same of our people in the U.S. We stand in solidarity for dignity, freedom, and justice for everyone. We will exercise our rights afforded to us...voting is our top emphasis. I hope you will join us in exploring, learning, and growing.
If you would like to join the DA Kenya Global Black Caucus, just click the join button on our homepage. Everyone is welcome, and I look forward to meeting up, discussing important issues, and winning some important seats with you!
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