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May 15, 2017 | by  | in Can Do |
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“Disabled person” or “person with a disability”? This is the question of Identity First language versus Person First language.

Some people feel that using “disabled” (or a more specific disability) as an adjective before “person” (or a more specific noun like “student” or “New Zealander”) can be dehumanising and disrespectful. Person First language became very popular because many people felt the need to emphasise the humanity of a person with a disability; to see them first as a person — one who happens to have a disability.

While people should never be reduced to their disabilities, disabilities can be an inextricable part of someone. People who use Identity First language feel that it is important to acknowledge this. A disability is not saying that a person is capable of less, it is saying that they are disabled by the way that the world around them often refuses to accommodate to the way their brain and body work if it doesn’t fit the non-existent “norm”. This disadvantage means that disabled people are forced to find alternate ways of making things work, shaping who we are and the way we perceive the world. Some people favour Identity First language because it attempts to reduce the intense stigma which still surrounds disability. It is claiming the label as an identity, it is a form of pride for the community.

If you have a disability, you probably have a style you prefer for yourself, but you should never assume that you know what is best for someone else.

Ultimately, everyone is different and will have their reasons for what they find respectful and empowering. The best way to find out which convention best honours someone, is to just ask.

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