The recent campaign launched to eradicate the word "bossy" from our vernacular has sparked a firestorm of commentary from all corners of the peanut gallery.
There are those concerned that free speech is in danger of being trampled. There are those who maintain a more "stick and stones" perspective. There are those who favor a focus on the down-the-road effects of negative reinforcement.
But regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, most can agree that words do matter. And while a nation founded on the principles of freedom should take care not to dictate the language of its populace, perhaps that populace could take care and, when choosing its words, choose dignity.
People with disabilities have heard it all when it comes to expressions describing them. The person doing the talking has a choice; they can focus on the positive or not. They can be part of a solution or not. They can focus on the person and their ability over the disability.
The Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council suggests the following:
|CHOOSE AFIRMATION…||OVER THE ALTERNATIVE|
|people with disabilities||the handicapped; the disabled|
|people who are blind; people who are visually impaired||the blind|
|people who are deaf; people who are hard of hearing; the Deaf||suffers a hearing impairment; hearing impaired|
|people who have multiple sclerosis||
afflicted by MS
|people with cerebral palsy||CP victim|
|people with developmental disabilities||retarded; mentally defective; slow|
|people who use a wheelchair; wheelchair user||confined to a wheelchair; wheelchair bound|
|people without disabilities; non-disabled people||normal person|
|unable to speak; non-verbal||dumb; mute|
|people with mobility impairments||cripple; lame|
|people with mental illness; psychiatric survivors||mental; crazy; psycho; nutcase|
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