It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rethinking People First Language

About a month and a half ago or so I met my new most favorite person in the world (yes, you are) through a bunch of random phone calls. One of those six degrees of separation things. I never expected her to live a mile and a half from me. Both she and her husband are die hard ADAPTers and she works on getting people out of nursing homes and back into the community. Maryland has the laws that say Medicaid has to pay for it, and people shouldn't be there. But that's another post for another day. She knows all of this cool stuff and has kidnapped me repeatedly and dragged me all over the Baltimore area. Back in June I went to my first Cross Disability Rights Coalition meeting. Two weekends ago we went to a Barak Obama supporter picnic. This past weekend we went to an ADA day picnic at Fort McHenrey with a bunch of nursing home escapees (I just love that term. It puts the image of a jailbreak in my head). Thursday we're going to an independent living conference. And as it turns out, we don't even have to leave her parking lot to have an adventure . She even sends me emails about all sorts of interesting things such as this, this, this, and this.

Yesterday I finally read an email attachment that she had sent me a few days ago. It was an essay about people first language (PFL) written by one of her friends who works for the Maryland Department of Disabilities. Back in January I was going to write a post entitled "My Rant on People 1st Language" but there were too many other things to blog about and I wasn't sure how to put my thoughts into comprehensible statements. I guess this is a comprehensible statement: I'm just not a fan of PFL.

I get people's position on PFL. Really I do. I even teach PFL to my peers. It's the best I can do to combat the horribly offensive textbooks we are subjected to reading. It does make sense, just not for me. As the essay says, " While one might claim the term 'people with disabilities' puts 'people' first, the converse could also be argued: it puts 'disabilities' last. No other oppressed group in the nation uses 'people first' language. African Americans, Latinos, women, gays and lesbians – all use the descriptive term before 'person' (if they use the word 'person' at all). The one conspicuous exception, 'people of color', never really gained much traction."

I am not a "person with cerebral palsy" or a "person with bipolar disorder," I'm Cheryl and I happen to have CP and am bipolar. Now that I think about this more as I'm writing, doesn't "person with" still draw a lot of attention to the disability(ies) itself? and isn't the point of PFL not to? Why do we have to be "people with?" Why can't I just be Cheryl? What's wrong with that?

But that's not my original reason for hating PFL. I hate PFL because it's a mouthful to say/type. It's just plain awkward. But the real reason that I hate PFL is the same reason that the essay states. It devalues who I am as a person. In second grade we had to make these flowers out of construction paper and each petal had to have an adjective about ourselves on it. One of mine was handicapped. Even then, when I shied away from other PWDs, (see, I still use PFL even though I don't like it) I still identified as a PWD on some level. It just happens to be who I am, just as much as being a woman is, so why can't we give this adjective the same status as others? I wouldn't be who I am if I didn't have CP; if I hadn't had 7 surgeries, spent so much time in therapy, and was sometimes forced to find more creative ways to do things. I wouldn't want to work as a child life specialist or in an independent living center. Somehow, to me, PFL is saying that there is something wrong with this, and I don't like it.


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