Scenario 4: Language to demonstrate respect

A high school special education teacher, after overhearing some of her fellow teachers referring to “the handicapped kids,” wants to share information with them about respectful use of language.  What are some resources she can use for this purpose?

Person-first language is an approach to communication that puts the person before their disability.  It bases communication on respect.  Some people with disabilities prefer to use the “identity-first” framework for communication. How we use language impacts on how people with disabilities are perceived and even on how people with disabilities perceive themselves.  Language should always demonstrate respect for people.   Resources are provided on both person-first and identity-first approaches. 


Topic:  Person-first Language

Title: Disability Language Style Guide

Source:  Arizona State University’s National Center on Disability and Journalism

Find at:  and the companion piece, “Terms to avoid when writing about disability”:

Description:  A “one-of-a-kind” style guide for professionals who write about people living with disabilities.

Title:  Guidelines:  How to write and report about people with disabilities (8th edition)

Source:  University of Kansas

Find at:

Description:  “Writers, editors, reporters and other communicators strive to use the most accurate terminology about people with disabilities. However, inaccurate, archaic and offensive expressions are still commonly used, perpetuating negative stereotypes and beliefs about people with disabilities.”

Topic:  Identity-first Language

Title:  Identity-first language

Source:  Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN)

Find at

Description:  ASAN intern Lydia Brown explains the perspective of those who prefer Identity-First Language.

Topic:  Deciding between Person-first and Identity-first approach

Title:  4 disability euphemisms that need to bite the dust (Ladau)

Source:  Center for Disability Rights

Find at:

Description:  “Ladau is a writer and disability rights activist whose passion is to harness the powers of language and social media as tools for people to become informed and engaged social justice advocates. She maintains a blog, Words I Wheel By (, as a platform to address discrimination and to encourage people to understand the experience of having a disability in more positive, accepting, and supportive ways.”  In this article, she describes her perspective on using language to describe herself and others.

Title:  Should You Use Person-First or Identity-First Language?

Source:  The Mighty

Find at:

Description:  “The use of person-first and identity-first language has been a frequent topic on The Mighty. Some readers and contributors prefer to be referred to with person-first language, where the person comes before the disability in the description (e.g. a ‘person with autism’). Others prefer identity-first language, which puts the disability or disorder first in the description (e.g. an ‘autistic person’).  The Mighty wanted to hear from people with disabilities about which type of language they prefer. We asked our readers on Facebook to share whether they favor person-first language, identity-first language or don’t have a preference. The answers we received were informative and important, and everyone agreed that regardless of what kind of language you prefer, the most important thing is to respect others for who they are.”