Terminology

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Language and terminology used around disability varies across countries and cultures. It is always useful to ask persons with disabilities in the context you are working what they prefer to use as language. However, the general agreement is to use ‘person-first language, which puts the person before his or her impairment (health condition) which is inline with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and is also consistent with the rights-based model of disability. It reflects disability as a result of the interaction between a person with an impairment and barriers created by society.

In practice, this means to use “persons with disabilities” instead of "the disabled", or 'a student who is blind', “a woman with fistula”, “a person who uses a wheelchair" or "wheelchair user”. Why? Disability is not a defined characteristic but only one of several identities or aspects of a person. Phrases like "the disabled" or "the amputee" focus on a condition or impairment and not on the person who is affected by it.

This is also suggested when talking about illnesses and diseases, for which medical labels and stereotypes should be avoided. Rather talk about a person that has diabetes than a diabetic patient for example.

 

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