Understanding ableism

January 29, 2021

A large part of celebrating Person First Day and practicing person first language is combating ableism. Ableism is defined as discrimination against people who have disabilities. Mr. Nick Cedergren, who serves on the Unified Schools team as the Senior Manager of Unified Schools at SOMN, said, “This campaign is really combating the larger notion of ableism. Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. At its heart, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require ‘fixing’ and defines people by their disability.” Person First Day is celebrated in many Minnesota schools, including OHS. Mr. Turnar Kist, who is a special education teacher at OHS, said, “This is not just for schools, but for the general population to take a step back and reflect on how to be more inclusive in society.” 

This is not just for schools, but for the general population to take a step back and reflect on how to be more inclusive in society”

— Mr. Turnar Kist

What is person first language?

A large part of celebrating Person First Day is spreading awareness about person first language, which is also known as people first language. Kist said, “Person first language puts the person before the disability. It is used to identify individuals with disabilities and ensures you recognize the disability because it is a part of who they are, but it is not all the person is.” For example, instead of referring to someone as disabled, one would refer to them as a person with a disability. This asserts that what they have is not all that they are- they are a person first. Special education teacher Ms. Marilyn Olson said, “Instead of saying that down syndrome kid, you would say little Johnny.”  This example showcases putting the person first when communicating. 

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