Writing about People with DD

By Mary Perry,2014-05-29 16:51
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Writing about People with DD



     Guidelines for Reporting and Writing About People with Disabilities

     When writing, its important to be concise, particularly in journalism. However, sometimes the effort to limit wordiness leads to inappropriate references to people with disabilities. The following guidelines explain preferred terminology and reflect input from more than 100 national disability organizations. These guidelines have been reviewed and endorsed by media and disability experts throughout the country. Although opinions may differ on some terms, the guidelines represent the current consensus among disability organizations. Portions of the guidelines have been adopted into the Associated Press Stylebook, a basic reference for professional

    journalists. DO NOT FOCUS ON DISABILITY unless it is crucial to a story. Avoid tear-jerking human interest stories about incurable diseases, congenital impairments or severe injury. Focus instead on issues that affect the quality of life for those individuals, such as accessible transportation, housing, affordable health care, employment opportunities and discrimination. PUT PEOPLE FIRST, not their disability. Say woman with arthritis, children who are deaf or people with disabilities.

    This puts the focus on the individual, not the particular functional limitation. Despite editorial pressures to be succinct, it is never acceptable to use crippled,

    deformed, suffers from, victim of, the retarded, the deaf and dumb,

    etc. DO NOT SENSATIONALIZE A DISABILITY by writing afflicted with, crippled

    with, suffers from, victim of and so on. Instead, write person who has

    multiple sclerosis or man who had polio. DO NOT USE GENERIC LABELS for disability

    groups, such as the retarded or the deaf. Emphasize people, not labels. Say

    people with mental retardation or people who are deaf. EMPHASIZE ABILITIES,

    not limitations. For example: ? Correct: uses a wheelchair/braces or walks with

    crutches ? Incorrect: confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair-bound or crippled

    Similarly, do not use emotional descriptors such as unfortunate, pitiful and

    similar phrases. Disability groups also strongly object to using euphemisms to describe disabilities. Terms such as handi-capable, mentally different,

    physically inconvenienced and physically challenged are considered

    condescending. They reinforce the idea that disabilities cannot be dealt with directly and candidly. SHOW PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AS ACTIVE participants in society. Portraying persons with disabilities interacting with people without disabilities in social and work environments helps break down barriers and open lines of communications.

     DO NOT PORTRAY SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AS SUPERHUMAN. Many people with disabilities do not want to be hero-ized. Like many people without

    disabilities, they wish to be fully included in our communities and do not want to be judged based on unreasonable expectations. DO NOT IMPLY DISEASE when discussing disabilities that result from a prior disease episode. People who had polio and experienced after-effects have a post-polio disability. They are not currently experiencing the disease. Do not imply disease with people whose disability has resulted from anatomical or physiological damage (e.g., person with spina bifida or

    cerebral palsy). Reference to the disease associated with a disability is acceptable only with chronic diseases, such as arthritis, Parkinsons disease or multiple

    sclerosis. People with disabilities should never be referred to as patients or

    cases unless their relationship with their doctor is under discussion. LISTED BELOW ARE PREFERRED WORDS THAT REFLECT A POSITIVE ATTITUDE IN PORTRAYING DISABILITIES:

     Brain injury. Describes a condition where there is long-term or temporary disruption in brain function resulting from injury to the brain. Difficulties with cognitive, physical, emotional or social functioning may occur. Use person with

    a brain injury, woman who has sustained brain injury or boy with an acquired

    brain injury. Cleft lip. Describes a specific congenital disability involving lip and gum. The term hare lip is anatomically incorrect and stigmatizing. Use person

    who has a cleft lip or a cleft palate. Deaf. Deafness refers to a profound degree

    of hearing loss that prevents understanding speech though the ear. Hearing impaired

    and hearing loss are generic terms used by some individuals to indicate any degree of hearing loss from mild to profound. These terms include people who are hard of hearing and deaf. However, some individuals completely disfavor the term hearing

    impaired. Others prefer to use deaf, hard of hearing or hearing loss.

    Hard of hearing and hearing loss refers to a mild to moderate hearing loss

    that may or may not be corrected with amplification. Use woman who is deaf, boy

    who is hard of hearing, individuals with hearing losses and people who are

    deaf or hard of hearing. Disability. General term used for a functional limitation that interferes with a persons ability to, for example, walk, lift, hear or learn. It may refer to a physical, sensory or intellectual condition. Use as a descriptive noun or adjective, such as person living with AIDS, woman who is blind or

    man with a disability. Impairment refers to loss or abnormality of an organ

    or body mechanism, which may result in a disability. Disfigurement. Refers to physical changes caused by burn, trauma, disease or congenital problems.

     Down syndrome. Describes a chromosome disorder that usually causes a delay in physical, intellectual and language development. Usually results in mental retardation. Mongol or mongoloid is unacceptable. Handicap. Not a synonym

    for disability. Describes a condition or barrier imposed by society, the environment or by ones self. Many individuals prefer inaccessible or not accessible

    to describe social and environmental barriers. Handicap can be used when citing

    laws and situations, but should not be used to describe a disability. Do not refer to people with disabilities as the handicapped or handicapped people. Say

    the building is not accessible for a wheelchair-user or the stairs are a handicap

    for her. HIV/AIDS. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is an infectious disease resulting in the loss of the bodys immune system to ward off infections. The disease is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A positive test for HIV can occur without symptoms of the illnesses, which usually develop up to 10 years later, including tuberculosis, recurring pneumonia, cancer, recurrent vaginal yeast infections, intestinal ailments, chronic weakness and fever and profound weight loss. Preferred: people living with HIV, people with AIDS or living with AIDS.

    Intellectual disability. The Federal Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) lists four categories under mental disability: psychiatric disability, *retardation,

    learning disability or cognitive impairment is acceptable. Nondisabled.

    Appropriate term for people without disabilities. Normal, able-bodied,

    healthy or whole are inappropriate. Seizure. Describes an involuntary muscular contraction, a brief impairment or loss of consciousness, etc., resulting from a neurological condition such as epilepsy or from an acquired brain injury. Rather than epileptic, say girl with epilepsy or boy with a seizure disorder. The

    term convulsion should be used only for seizures involving contraction of the entire body. Spastic. Describes a muscle with sudden abnormal and involuntary spasm. Not appropriate for describing someone with cerebral palsy or a neurological disorder. Muscles, not people, are spastic. Stroke. Caused by interruption of blood to brain. Hemiplegia (paralysis on one side) may result. Stroke survivor is preferred over

    stroke victim.


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