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People-First Language

People-first or person-first language is a way of describing someone’s disability or impairment by putting the “person” before the “disability.” For example, person-first language would use the phrase child with dyslexia instead of dyslexic child. This entry offers common examples, critiques of, and alternatives to people-first language.

Common Examples of People-First Language

The purpose of people-first language is to promote the idea that a person is much more than his or her disability. Examples of people-first versus non-people-first language include the following:

Person FirstNon–Person First
Person with a disabilityDisabled person; handicapped person
A child with autismAn autistic child
An adult with Down syndromeA mongoloid; a Down syndrome person
A child with depressionA depressive; a manic-depressive
Accessible parking; accessible bathroomsHandicapped parking; handicapped bathroom stall
She receives special education servicesShe’s a special ed. kid; he’s a ...
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