LABEL JARS, NOT PEOPLE reads a sign on the wall.  It's a reminder that good manners and respect are necessary as we communicate with others, and that includes people with disabilities.

Since all of us are "people first," it's important to remember that each of us has many qualities that describe us.  Red hair, green eyes, a petite figure or an orange jacket tells us something about the person.

Individuals are much more than the disabilities they have.  Perhaps we're speaking of a co-worker.  Maybe she's the daughter of a friend or he's the parent of a child in the neighborhood.

Those of us without disabilities can be the leaders as we use correct terms and appropriate language.  We promote inclusion, self-determination and transition, and we can set the tone with teachers, professionals, providers, media representatives and even families by using respectful terms.

When referring to a person's disability, we can mention other qualities at the same time and set an example for people around us.


- Pam is a young woman who has autism. NOT Pam is autistic.

- Judy is flying to Tampa and needs a wheelchair. NOT Judy is crippled.

- Kerry has an emotional disability. NOT Kerry is emotionally disturbed.

- Jim has a cognitive disability. NOT Jim is retarded.

- Ann has a hearing disability. NOT Ann is deaf.

By: Ann
Chairperson, Family Care Council

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