Me First!

This evening, I read an PhotoAbility Article profiling Deborah Davis, whose business, PhotoAbility, provides stock images of people who happen to have disabilities. The people in the photos are doing the same sorts of things that people without disabilities do, and the photos can illustrate articles on just about anything. Ideally, the use of these images in mainstream media will “normalize” people with disabilities. (Full disclosure: I’ve been living with multiple sclerosis for twenty years, so I have a vested interest in this topic.)

The article was fine, but I wish the reporter had followed Ms. Davis’ example and used people-first language. People-first language is what it sounds like. Instead of writing “disabled people,” for example, one would write “people with disabilities.” The difference may seem negligible, but think about it: Which should we prioritize–one’s humanity or one’s diagnosis, which is but one facet of that humanity? In the article, where Davis mentions “someone with a disability,” the reporter refers to “images of disabled people.” In the next paragraph, Davis brings up “a person with a disability,” shortly after which the reporter mentions “photos of disabled people.”

Not every individual or organization agrees with using person-first language. For example, many in the Blind, Deaf, and Autistic communities equate it with feelings of shame and/or attempts to distance the person from the disability. I respect these views and realize that it is up to people to define themselves. Because Davis used people-first language, though, the reporter should have followed suit.

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Published in: on July 3, 2015 at 2:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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