person-first languageLast updated
Proponents of person-first language say using phrasing like “with a disability” or “has a disability” avoids reducing a person to their disability. Person-first language can be used in many situations to replace terms like “diabetic” with phrases like “person with diabetes.” It can also be used to avoid phrases such as “the disabled” or “the blind,” and instead use “people with disabilities” or “people who are blind.” The Americans With Disabilities Act uses person-first language.
Some prefer “identity-first” language, such as “chronically ill person” or “disabled person,” as they cannot or don’t want to separate themselves from their disability or illness in the same way that person-first language seems to encourage.
As with many disability-specific terms, if necessary and relevant to include in your content, following the person’s preferred terminology whenever possible aligns your framing with their lived experience. Pay attention to how they refer to themselves, or ask them, “How do you prefer we speak about the context of [their disability]?”
- Identity-first vs person-first language is an important distinction (Association of Health Care Journalists)
- Person-first language: What it means to be a “person” (National Institutes of Health)
- Person First Language: Usage guidelines (DC Office of Disability Rights)