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People First

People First Language

Language is powerful. When we define people by their disabilities first, we devalue them and disrespect them as individuals.

Some important things to consider:

  • The only label a person really needs is his/her name.
  • Ask yourself if the disability is even relevant and needs to be mentioned when referring to an individual.
  • Refer to strengths, abilities, preferences; not levels of functioning (high, moderate, low).
  • MR is no longer an acceptable term and has been removed from state and federal statutes. It should be removed from all Arc of Westchester forms. If required, intellectual/developmental disability should be used.
  • All of Arc of Westchester’s internal and external communications shall promote a positive image of people, services and supports.

So, what should you say?

What Do You Call People with Disabilities?

People! or …friends, neighbors, dad, grandma, Joe’s sister, my big brother, our cousin, Mrs. Smith, George, husband, wife, homeowner, renter, man, woman, adult, child, partner, participant, member, voter, citizen, amigo or any other word you would use for a person.

Who are people with disabilities?

Artists, writers, co-workers, politicians, teachers, receptionists, models, movie stars, students, colleagues, employees, drivers, dancers, reporters, mechanics and much more. 


“Our words and the meanings we attach to them create attitudes, drive social policies and laws, influence our feelings and decisions, and affect people’s daily lives and more. How we use them makes a difference. People First Language puts the person before the disability and describes who a person is, not what a person has. Using a diagnosis as a defining characteristic reflects prejudice, and also robs the person of the opportunity to define him/herself.” The Arc