FWD (DS) Re: The M [Mongoloid] word and idiot

From: Terry W. Colvin (fortean1@frontiernet.net)
Date: Fri Jun 30 2000 - 19:27:55 MDT

Forwarded from the Down Syndrome mailing list:

from < http://www.coe.missouri.edu/~rcep7/orient/history/valus02.htm >

One of the changes that comes with person centered values is "Person First
Language". Unfortunately, people are still debating about some parts of
person first language.
At one time, people with disabilities were referred to as "patients" or by
their disability ("epileptic"). Today, people involved with disabilities see
these as kind of rude labels because they tend to depersonalize someone into
a stereotype and imply that the person is passive. In the 1950's people in
human services began using the term "client" instead. Some people object to
"client" because it implies a lower social or educational status for the
person with a disability compared to the service provider. Many people use
the term "consumer", but some people also object to it because it implies
someone who consumes and uses up resources. Some groups are using the term
"customer", to be part of the popular movement towards customer service and
satisfaction. But even this term has people that object to it, who point out
that people getting rehabilitation services do not purchase the services;
the taxpayers or employers pay for it.
The term "disabled people" or "the disabled" also has problems, since it
suggests that their disability is the person's defining feature. Remember
the first principle of person centered values? People can have a disability
without being the disability. Labels that focus on limitations can be
self-fulfilling - if someone thinks they are limited by their disability,
they may give up and not even try new things. Because of this, a person can
think they are more "disabled" than they truly are.
In general, we should try to focus on the person and see both disabilities
and abilities from their point of view, instead of from a medical definition
or stereotype.

from < http://www.fmhi.usf.edu/cfs/dares/famteach/chooswords.htm >

The language a society uses is reflective of its values. The term
handicapped literally means cap in hand, a term coined during a time when
society envisioned people with disabilities as only being capable of begging
for a living. Times and our language have changed.
People with disabilities prefer to be referred to with language that
respects their humanity, abilities, talents and values. Person-first
language recognizes a person's right to self esteem and to be addressed as a
person first and not as disability. Referring to individuals with
disabilities as "the disabled", creates an image of a homogeneous and
unusual group of persons. Terms such as these can be dehumanizing and
perpetuate negative stereotypes about people with disabilities.

from < http://www.usd.edu/sduap/systems/primer/person%20first%20lang.htm >

The only label a person needs is their name. Instead of labels, think of ALL
people in terms of their strengths and abilities.

People with disabilities are "People First" and want the same things in life
as people who don't have disabilities. All too often their gifts and
abilities are not appreciated because our society has focused on their
disability. Their disability is only part of who they are-not WHO they are.
How many of us want to be described only in terms of the things we cannot
do? Our language reflects our attitudes toward diversity. A first step to
changing attitudes is changing the way we speak about people.
Labels are extremely powerful. Don't let a person's disability become his
label. Say "student who has a disability" rather than a "disabled student."
It makes the student more important than the disability!

from < http://www.dpa.org.sg/DPA/publication/dpajul99/p20.htm >

I believe many forces are to blame for inappropriate language. For instance,
many people see or hear terms such as 'handicapped parking' and assume that
it's okay in everyday speech. Others were raised during a time when
'cripple' and 'invalid' were considered proper terminology. More recently,
we have the PC, or politically correct, movement. It was PC that gave us
jewels such as 'handicapable', 'differently abled' and the ever-popular
'physically challenged'. It's funny - I don't remember being a part of the
committee that voted yes to these.
Last, and certainly least, we have many members of the disability community
itself who care little about what they're called. Many individuals tell me
"you can't take that stuff too seriously" or "what difference does it make?"
Sadly, perhaps in an attempt to show society that they're not bitter, they
sell us out.
The importance of using person-first language can hardly be stressed enough.
Placing the person before the wheelchair, cane or speech difficulty
accomplishes two things. First, by stressing the person, it emphasizes inner
qualities that anyone might have, and de-emphasizes physical appearance. It
also normalizes the disability by sending the subtle message that a
disability can happen to anyone. Compare that to 'wheelchair person' which
has sort of a space-alien feel to it.
Language affects attitudes. Legislation defending the rights of the
disability community might be easier to enforce if everyone saw the person
The phrase 'everyone's disabled in some way' should not be excused either.
This is an error in logic known as equivocation, or the changing of a term's
definition in midstream. One minute, we're referring to a disability such as
blindness; the next minute we're equating it to forgetfulness, or being 20
pounds overweight. The person who does this usually finds the disability
intimidating. Reducing the seriousness of the disability makes it easier to
So, what can a person with a disability do against the formidable foes of
assertiveness and patience. When someone you meet uses inappropriate
language, do you politely correct them, or do you accept their ignorance and
confusion as excuses? If you do correct them, do you explain why it's
Every time a person refrains from being assertive, they are, in effect,
saying, "It doesn't really matter what you call me." Correcting someone may
not be comfortable, but it's the right thing to do. If that person is
secure, he or she will not react defensively. If they do, you must realize
that it is not your problem.
Any time members of a minority group speak out on an issue relating to them,
they run the risk of being labelled as bitter, obsessed, maladjusted or
hypersensitive. These labels are merely a sign of society's unease. Labels
take the place of true understanding, while also discrediting the person
presenting the issue.

-- Rob Kocur

other related websites: http://www.asha.org/publications/folkins.htm
< http://www.csd.uconn.edu/persn1st.html >
< http://www.crinet.org/moreinfo/etq3.htm >
< http://www.pdassoc.com/words.htm >
< http://www.independentliving.org/ESCAP/ESCAPNonHandicapping3.html >
< http://www.uio.no/~regie/litteratur/Artikler/Criti.htm >
< http://disabilities-us.com/dmd/links/inclusion.html >

Terry W. Colvin, Sierra Vista, Arizona (USA)
< fortean1@frontiernet.net >
Home Page: < http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Stargate/8958/index.html >
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