While many with a disability have their own personal challenges, what most do not want is for their disability to define who they are as a person. Many will say, “I am not my disability.” And that is true. A person is not their disability. Anyone with a disability has unique gifts just like all of us and being treated with respect is our responsibility.
A person is always an individual first. A person is not autistic. A person has autism. A person is not disabled. They have a disability. There is a difference. The word “disabled” implies a person is completely incapacitated. And for most, that is just not the case.
If a person with a disability refers to themselves as disabled, autistic, etc.., that is their own personal choice but it is up to you to show that person respect and understanding by making sure they and others know that they are a human first.
This is why the language we use is so important when it comes to people with disabilities because we all bring our own gifts to this world.
As a general rule, anything with the word “The” in front of it should be avoided. The deaf or The blind. These types of phrases should be avoided because it states that the person is their disability. And they are not. It also groups individuals and that is not appropriate. People with disabilities are just like you, part of a larger community but, also individuals.
“Has” is also another key term to remember when referring to people with disabilities. When speaking about people with disabilities, make sure you say that they “have” a disability. They are not disabled. The automobile that has broken down on the bridge during rush hour is disabled. But the person that has certain challenges or limitations, has a disability. Other than their limitations, they are still a person that contributes to society and their community.
“Uses” is another important word to understand when we are talking about, or with, those with disabilities. You should never say that someone is confined to a wheelchair. The proper term is “uses” a wheelchair. While they may use that wheelchair to gain mobility, and it may very well be an extension of their body, the wheelchair does not define them as a person.
And make sure when you are speaking with or about people with disabilities that you do not refer to any limitations as “issues.” The proper way to discuss a disability is discuss their challenges. Saying someone has “issues” can come off as disrespectful.
Most people with a disability do not want to be constantly reminded that they do have a disability. They want to live their lives like all of us. But they just need a little understanding to make sure they can belong like any one of us.
If you want to make sure that all that come to your business can enjoy a welcoming environment, please contact us today about disability awareness training workshops brought directly to your company.