Dear Editor:

In this current economic climate, it has become increasingly obvious that people with disabilities are being targeted in a negative way. They are either people "living off the system" or "unfortunates" who need our help because they cannot survive independently. In most cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

At the Anthracite Region Center for Independent Living (ARCIL) we promote the everyday use of People First Language as part of our emphasis on community living and an independent lifestyle. Language is a powerful tool. Language reflects our perceptions of people. In order to promote a respectful attitude and develop positive communication with individuals with disabilities individuals will need to incorporate People First Language.

People First Language is very simple: it addresses the person and not their disability. People First Language takes some time in getting used to speaking, however, it shows a great deal of respect toward the individual and does not focus on the disability. Instead of "the epileptic" an individual is referred to as "Joe, who HAS Epilepsy". In this scenario Epilepsy is just a piece of who Joe is – not the whole person. Instead of "suffering from Cerebral Palsy", Jane HAS Cerebral Palsy. Who are we to judge if someone is "suffering" from something that is an integral part of who they are?

Fifty years ago it was considered acceptable to refer to people as "crippled" or "retarded". Today, people have a better understanding of individuals with disabilities, their skills and the rich, positive roles

they play in the community, and these older terms are akin to racial slurs,

which is unacceptable in any context.

It is important in our communities, health care systems, social service systems, and media that individuals with disabilities are awarded the respect they deserve as individuals and citizens. The way we speak OF them and TO them can promote that goal.

Please feel free to contact ARCIL at 1-800-777-9906 for more information or for a free training on People First Language and related topics.

Sincerely,

Susan Kennedy

Director of Independent

Living Services

Jennifer DeLuca

Community Organizer Assistant