I have just come across this blog post discussing ‘neutral’ words, particularly around autism but I think the points that are raised are applicable for all Disabled People.
I firmly believe that language is one of the key elements in changing people’s prejudices towards Disabled People. Ill-conceived language can be used to label and stigmatise people. It can also be used to undermine people’s self worth and self esteem.
This is one of our biggest criticisms of the ‘medical model’. The way that it tends to label people purely in terms of their medical condition rather than seeing that as just one aspect of a person’s identity. This is especially important for Disabled children who tend to get a multitude of (often inaccurate) medical labels whilst growing up, purely because the doctors have not decided a firm diagnosis.
We do however live in a society where labels are everywhere, whether you’re a Disabled person or a non-Disabled person. People First’s slogan ‘Labels are for jars, not for people’ may be the ideal but we are a long way from acheiving that. Until that happens we must make sure that the labels we do use, are accurate, non judgemental, and ‘neutral’.