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Monday, January 23, 2012

We're People First

I’m a little behind updating the blog this week, partly from being sick and having sick kids at home and partly because I was out of town Friday and Saturday in order to attend my first Partner’s in Policymaking class in Salem.

I had good intentions of working on some entries and other various tasks while I was in Salem but once class began, those all went out the window.  This weekend was life-changing for me and the 29 other participants that were present.  It will also be life-changing for my family and community.

I don’t know exactly how much to share (there was just too much information presented for me to disseminate all at once).  And I don’t want to run readers off by constantly posting “soap box” sermons on disability in America.  I think I will start with just a few simple ideas that I’ve already begun to share with those closest to me.

The most immediate and easiest change I’m going to make for myself is using “People First” language.  You may think it’s only semantics or that it doesn’t really matter but after spending some time hearing about it and really meditating on it, I think it makes a profound difference.

Language is powerful.  The things we say to people stay with them and can do more damage or good than even our actions, at times.  People who have a disability are NOT their disability; they are people first..  They are people who HAVE a disability—they are not disabled. 

Can you see how that is different? 

Do you see how a child might react differently if they hear all their life that they have a disability rather than they ARE disabled? 

If you have cancer, do you go around telling people you’re cancerous?  If you wear glasses do you tell people your myopic?  More likely than not, you would indicate that have cancer or that you need glasses to help you see more clearly.  

I’m am consciously rearranging my words to make sure I don’t refer to the disabled in our town or the autistic kid next door.  I’m going to make sure I talk about my friend's kids who have autism or some other disability. 

It’s a simple change in our everyday language and it can make a profound difference in the life of someone who has a disability but isn’t defined by that disability.  Can you join me in making this change?

If you’d like to learn a little more about how our society views disability and making positive changes in the lives of those who experience a disability, I encourage you to visit some of the sites listed below.     

Partners in Policy Making - Free online training & curriculum on advocacy
Oregon Disability Network - Sign up for free to stay informed about issues affecting the disability community in Oregon

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