What is “People First Language”?

How we talk to and treat one another are important factors in respecting, understanding, and including people.

#BetterTogether is brought to you by the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

“People with disabilities are people first. They are not defined by their condition or diseases.” (The DHS Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties)

It’s essential to bring awareness to disabilities and the way we communicate with those who have disabilities. “The way we view and communicate with and about people with disabilities shapes our relationships. The way we refer to people with disabilities in our communication is important.

“Putting the person first in our communications is not “political correctness,” it is showing respect for the dignity of the individual.” (The DHS Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties)

Basic rules of communication and engagement are necessary when speaking with anyone, especially those with disabilities. Treat adults like adults and do not use condescending or patronizing language. Speak directly and clearly. You should also:

  • Refrain from making decisions for or assuming a person’s needs
  • Do not pet or play with someone’s service animal
  • Do not assume a person needs help; ask first
  • A person’s equipment (i.e. wheelchair) is part of their personal space
  • Do not speak to an interpreter or companion- speak directly to the person
  • If you are unsure how to interact with a person with a disability, politely ask

The Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities (TuscBDD) has resources for children and adults with developmental disabilities. TuscBDD provides Early Intervention for children birth to three years old, Service and Support Administration for people of all ages, family support services, family mentorship, and more! To learn more about these services and others, visit TuscBDD online at www.tuscbdd.org or call (330) 308-7173.

For more information on communicating with people with disabilities visit the following sites:

Audrey Mattevi

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