Seth Coulter
Research and Training Center on Independent Living

KU research center publishes new edition of disability language guidelines

Wed, 08/05/2020

LAWRENCE — The Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL), a research center at the Life Span Institute at the University of Kansas, celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by releasing the ninth edition of Guidelines: How to Write about People with Disabilities

Acknowledging that the language we use to discuss disability shapes perceptions of people with disabilities, the guidelines summarize key concepts in the disability community and recommend objective, respectful terminology to use when writing about disability. The recommendations were reviewed and endorsed by national organizations serving people with disabilities.

New to the ninth edition is a discussion of a recent shift in some communities from a preference for person-first language to a preference for identity language. Person-first language literally puts the person first in a sentence, emphasizing their basic humanity before stating an objective fact, as in "people with autism." Identity language expresses disability pride with such direct statements as "I am autistic."     

“Language evolves, and the guidelines document evolution in disability language, noting terms that are rejected because they are stigmatizing and others that are preferred because they are factual and promote dignity,” said Jean Hall, director of RTC/IL.

The first edition of the guidelines was published in 1984. Since then, RTC/IL has distributed more than a million copies, and recommendations from the guidelines have been adopted by The Associated Press Stylebook, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other professional organizations.

The guidelines are available for download here.

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