The student news site of Owatonna High School.

Why is person first language important?

January 29, 2021

Person first language is important because it helps decrease degradation of people who have disabilities, who have been historically degraded by speech through labels. Cedergren said, “Language is a powerful tool to promote inclusion and make sure everyone feels seen and heard.” By identifying people who have disabilities by their disability and not their individual selves, people facilitate prejudice and discrimination towards them and therefore do not allow themselves to see and appreciate their individuality and personality.

Other important things to consider are other people’s feelings regarding the way they are spoken to and spoken about and how one can make others feel more comfortable. Kist said, “Many people still use the “r” word or use inappropriate words to describe people with disabilities, and the easiest way to fix this is by correcting people and showing you support people with disabilities.” 

Another important thing to consider is what a person’s preference is regarding person first language. Identity first language is another way for people to be identified. Using identity first language, one would say “a disabled person”, whereas with person first language, one would say “a person who has a disability.” People have preferences regarding how they are spoken to and how people speak about them, so it is important to ask. Thurnau said, “If you are not sure what someone prefers, it is best to ask them. I like person first language and when someone is speaking to me or about me, I prefer to have my name be used first like ‘My name is Annie and I have cognitive disabilities.’” 

Person First Day at OHS

This year, Person First Day was celebrated at OHS on Jan. 12 and Jan. 14. Unfortunately, OHS was unable to celebrate it on its official date of Jan. 15 due to a snow day. It was celebrated with a banner in which students could place their fingerprints to show their support for inclusion in the school. Students could place their fingerprint on the banner during lunch hours. Kist said, “The purpose was to have students come show support for inclusion and to make a commitment to respect individuals with disabilities by placing a fingerprint on a banner.” This celebration was organized by Kist and Olson. Another way that somebody can show support for the use of person first language and the fight against ableism is to take this pledge

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