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People first language and identity first language: Is there a clear choice?

language Aug 21, 2023

Person first/identity first language; is there a clear choice?

Person first/identity first language is a topic of ongoing debate within the disability community. The idea behind person first language is to put the person before their disability. For example, instead of saying "disabled person," one would say "person with a disability." The idea is to emphasize that the person is more than their disability and that their disability does not define them.

On the other hand, identity first language refers to using the disability as an identity marker. For example, saying "autistic person" rather than "person with autism." The idea behind identity first language is that the disability is an integral part of the person's identity and that it is not something that can be separated from them. It is something to be proud of.

There is no clear choice between person first or identity first language. The choice ultimately comes down to personal preference and what feels most comfortable and empowering for the individual in question. Some people prefer person first language because it emphasizes their personhood and recognizes that they are more than their disability. Others prefer identity first language because it recognizes the importance of their disability as a part of their identity and helps to combat ableism by embracing disability as a positive identity.

It's also important to note that different disabilities may have different preferences when it comes to person first or identity first language. For example, the Deaf community often prefers identity first language because being Deaf is not seen as a disability but rather as a cultural identity. In contrast, some individuals with intellectual disabilities may prefer person first language because they feel that it emphasizes their humanity and individuality.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to listen to and respect the preferences of the individual in question. If someone prefers person first language, use it. If they prefer identity first language, use that instead. It's not about adhering to a rigid set of rules, but rather about recognizing and respecting the diversity and complexity of the disability community.