People-first language. What does it mean? In a nutshell, it is the syntax of a sentence. The correct syntax of the sentence.
For example, “The autistic guy is pretty awesome!” Technically, this statement is correct, but try it this way instead: “The guy with autism is pretty awesome!”
Do you see the difference? Now, I know this may seem nitpicky, but think about it for a second. The first example puts the disability first. It makes autism the focal point of the sentence. It makes the person less relevant in the sentence. The second point does the exact opposite. As a person with a disability, specifically autism, I think that it is an important difference.
I think that even though it seems like a small thing, it is important. I want to make people realize that what they say matters and what they type or write matters as well. By putting the disability first the sentence dehumanizes the person. I only learned about this about three weeks ago, but I think it is something that people without disabilities should reflect on.
People with disabilities are not their disabilities. I am not autism, it is just something that I have possession of. I do not want to have possession of it, but I do. I must live with it. I will not be defined by autism and I encourage others with disabilities to feel the same way. This stigma that we live with is bad enough. We really do not need the addition of people putting the disability first on top of everything else.
With all that is going on in the world today I think it is time that the community comes together to work on promoting people first language and other ways of acceptance. Something as small as syntax in a sentence can go a long way in changing how we as a people treat people with disabilities. We are people too, we feel, we care, and most importantly we live life the best we can. Just like everyone else.
So please, consider using people first language. Consider letting people with disabilities know that you care by using it. It is not hard at all.