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The Proper Way to Pronounce Disabilities/Syndromes

It might seem like an acute case of extreme political correctness, but when it comes to disabilities and syndromes, it is better to describe them in the way people who have them want to be described. Here are five examples:

autism — This is an increasingly common one. Say person (boy/girl/man/woman/child/etc.) with autism. Do not say autistic.

brain injury — Brain damaged is out. Person with a brain injury is in.

cleft lip — Formerly, people described this as hare lip, but now we know it’s not only anatomically incorrect, it’s also stigmatizing. Correct usage: person who has a cleft lip/cleft palate.

Down syndrome — For all diseases and syndromes, never capitalize unless a person is associated with it. Then make sure you get the name right. This syndrome is named of John Langdon Down, a British physician who described the chromosomal condition in 1866. Therefore, it’s not Down’s syndrome or Downs syndrome. Notice also the word “syndrome” is not capitalized.

When describing someone with it, say person with Down syndrome. Do not use pejorative terms such as Mongol or Mongoloid. Also, don’t use Downs person.

seizure — Say person with a seizure disorder. A common seizure disorder is epilepsy. If a person has it, say, person with epilepsy not epileptic. You also shouldn’t need to say epileptic seizure” unless you’re some sort of medical professional who can tell the difference between epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

Some guidelines:

1. Put people first, not their disability.

2. Do not focus on the disability unless it’s crucial to the story.

3. Do not portray successful people with disabilities as superhuman or heroes.

4. Do not sensationalize the disability.

5. Do not use generic labels for disability groups. So, no “the deaf” or “the retarded.” See guideline 1.

6. Emphasize abilities not limitations. So, “uses a wheelchair” instead of “confined to a wheelchair.”

7. Avoid condescending euphemisms such as “handicapable,” “mentally different” and “physically challenged.”

Until next time! Use the right words!


February 2, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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