Sunday, November 3, 2013

People First

People first language.

I know, I know it sounds like another politically correct way of speaking that a special interest group wants the world to buy into.  Guess what?  IT IS!!!

Sensitivity is so important in communication.  It happens to be in my opinion one of the great assurances your message will be heard and not have your listener preoccupied with what an ass you are instead.  It encourages the start of open dialogue and the development perhaps of new relationships.

As parents or immediate family members of people with disabilities we might not be so delicate about the special needs that we live with daily and in fact might be somewhat crass.   If outsiders looking in could hear some of the conversations they might find them on the offensive side.  The key there is that they are on the outside.  We in the trenches have the inside tract.... Any seemingly off colour remarks are inside jokes if you will and always come from a place of love and respect though our word choices might belie that.  Call it a stress relief.  Call it an ability to laugh in the face of adversity.  Call it whatever you want however unless you are on the inside don't follow suit.

You might wonder what has brought on my little diatribe.  It might just be as simple as having heard one too many times the referencing of children and adults by the disability handed them.  Teachers, therapists, doctors, front line care givers identifying their charges in sentences such as "I have four Downs, five autistics, an FAS" etc etc.   No No NO!

Children/people are not their diagnosis.  People first language means when you are speaking of someone you might describe a child WITH autism not an autistic, you would say a child WITH Down Syndrome etc.  This might seem small.  It might seem petty.  When it is your child or family member I assure you it is not.  My biggest pet peeve however is when staff working with those in wheelchairs refer to the person as a "chair"ie we have to get the chairs in the bus or in the room etc.  NO!  The person is in a wheelchair they are NOT a chair.  This is said time and time again.  How demoralizing.  How degrading.

Maybe a good way to describe people first language is to take the "special interest" aspect out of the equation and illustrate with your average variety crowd.  Next time you introduce your friends you might say "this is my bald friend Barry, obese sister Tara, and homeless uncle Stan".  The friend, sister and uncle are people who HAPPEN to be obese, bald and homeless.  It is not who they are as people.

This really is more than being politically correct.  This is not a means by which if we use the right words then maybe the disability will not be noticed.   This is a way of hopefully creating a society whereby those with disabilities are less marginalized based on having a diagnosis.  The goal would be for them to be seen as PEOPLE FIRST.

1 comment:

Anne Marie said...