Happenin' Habitats Logo
Adjust Font SizeSmall fontMedium fontLarger fontLargest font
Learn. Think. Explore.
return to standard mode
Inclusive Instructional Techniques

Person-first Terminology

Just as any tool can be powerful in a positive or negative way, language can either work to your advantage or it can result in negative effects. If you are not aware of the appropriate language, you might inadvertently offend a person or convey a message you did not intend to convey.

When thinking about how to talk about disabilities, remember that a person with a disability is a person first. Referring to a person by a disability, for example “an epileptic” or “the deaf teacher,” is inappropriate. Instead you might say “a person who has epilepsy” or “a teacher who is deaf.”

People with disabilities prefer to be called just that, people with disabilities. Mention a person’s disability only if it is relevant to the issue. If it is not relevant, why mention it?

Use common sense, but let common sense be guided by an awareness of sensitive terminology. Remember, as the educator, you are setting the stage for how your students will interact with each other. By using person-first terminology, you are modeling respect.