A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

People First Language

Today I turned in an article about hiring people with disabilities. I'm not sure in exactly which publication my article will appear; it's for a company which does financial planning for families with special needs. The company has a web site, of course, as well as various newsletters. I've written for this editor before, and have two more articles lined up, all related to the disability market. Along with my first contract, the editor sent me a style sheet containing guidelines for language and usage.

These days, the catchphrase for disability-speak is "people first language." People First Language puts the person before the disability--literally, in the ordering of words in the sentence, and it describes what a person has, not who a person is. It's no longer appropriate to speak of "handicapped people." Instead, it's "people with disabilities." No more "retarded people." Now it's "people with developmental delays."

It's often beside the point to give a diagnosis: "Johnny has cerebral palsy." If the issue in question is Johnny getting to and from the playground, it might only be necessary to say, "Johnny uses a wheelchair." Why he does or doesn't is nobody's business.

I think that People First Language makes perfect sense. I hate the distinction between "normal" and "disabled," or, as the father of my own children used to say, "defective." What the hell is normal, anyway? I'm nearsighted, I have freckles, I messed up my lower back in a couple of accidents, and forgot to turn off the stove yesterday. Does that make me disabled?

That said, People First Language is a bear to use. The hardest thing about writing this last article was trying to get rid of all the prepositions (every mention of a person had a "with blah blah blah" after it). Anyway the editor thought it was fine. Just one more little thing to get used to, like having to wear a seatbelt. Something you take for granted if you've never known life without it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to see you back in the blogging world. Are you a "person with blog"?

11:39 AM  
Blogger Cicily Corbett said...

Actually, I'm a "woman with a blog." According to my current editor, if you know the sex of a person, use it.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a person with confusion suffering from a deficiency in patience with this process.

Why should normally-abled individuals bend over backwards until they become spinally challenged only to show they are lacking in vocabulary appropriateness?

I just don't see the truthiness in that. I must have a differently-abled gut.

5:28 AM  

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