Put the Person First

Nov 21, 2011
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Since entering the adapted physical activity world, I have been a big advocate of the usage of Person-First Language when speaking about individuals with disabilities. Through a recent conversation with family members, I have come to realization that a large number of individuals outside the adapted physical activity world are aware of what Person-First Language is or that there is currently a debate going on over which type of language is best to use when talking about individuals with disabilities.

Person-First Language or PFL, aims to emphasize the person, not the disability; by placing the person first, the disability is no longer the sole defining characteristic of individual, but rather one of many characteristics that make up that person.  With all this being said, there are several critics of PFL and many disability communities that are against the usage as well. In an article entitled Identity Politics and the Language Controversy, the writer offers the following explanation “Critics of person first language are unconvinced that person first language actually accomplishes that intent. Indeed some of us consider person first language to be Dehumanizing….Not only does person first language deny a person the ability to acknowledge the role their disability plays in their identity, but it medicalizes the disability.” (Raymaker, 2009). Many of individuals against the usage of PFL feel that PFL is doing more harm than good for individuals in the disability community.

Though the usage of PFL has been engraved into my skull, I can easily see both sides of the argument; both sides are striving to find a language that best presents individuals with disabilities with the upmost respect. Regardless of which side you agree with, all I ask is that you choose a language that is respectful for individuals with disabilities. To further read the Identity Politics and the Language Controversy article or see how examples of ways to use PFL please look to the following links:

http://news.change.org/stories/identity-politics-and-the-language-controversy

http://www.inclusionproject.org/nip_userfiles/file/People%20First%20Chart.pdf

Author: Tamika Jones