Respectful Communication _review

Topic Progress:
Carrie, PJ and EM sit at a meeting table together, wearing face masks.
It may not look like it but the people in this room are socially distanced.
Carrie, a Black woman in her 30s wears a facemask, has a white cane and a miniature horse that serves as her service animal

Carrie: Planning for ALL means respectful language. What you say reflects your attitude, doesn’t it?

When I was at the mall, one of the store clerks said goodbye and “bless your heart” in a certain tone. I felt talked down to and disrespected. My daughter was with me and got super upset.

💭 If you were Carrie, what would you have done?

  • Smiled and moved on quickly
  • Told the clerk people with disabilities don’t like being talked down to
  • Told the clerk that I didn’t like being talked down to
  • Given a bad online review to the store
  • Glared and walked away

There’s no one right way to respond to something like this. It depends on the situation. It depends on my mood, and who I’m speaking with.

PJ, in their 30s, wears a facemask and glasses

PJ: Carrie, what a crummy experience. People should realize that inclusion starts with respect.

Carrie, a Black woman in her 30s wears a facemask, has a white cane and a miniature horse that serves as her service animal

Carrie: Sometimes people just don’t know and sometimes people mean it, you know? Words matter. Words reflect attitudes. We’ve talked about the negative impacts of emergencies on People of Color and Indigenous people. 4ALL means respect for all parts of your identity. As you work on whole community planning, you may get to know community members or groups that you didn’t know before. Part of respectful collaboration is checking with community groups about how they prefer to be identified.

Planners may not mean disrespect, but they may not know current or respectful words to use. We’ve found it helpful to share disability “etiquette” resources with local planners. We’ll share some resources with you after your last visit.

Take a look at these respectful language tips. No need to take notes. They’ll be on the Resource List.

Emphasize abilities, not limitations. Use Person who uses a wheelchair, not the terms Confined or restricted to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound. Use Person who uses a device to speak, not the terms Can’t talk, mute. Do not use language that suggests the lack of something. Use Person with a disability or Disabled, Person of short stature, Person with cerebral palsy, Person with epilepsy or seizure disorder, or person with multiple sclerosis. Do not use handicapped, midget, cerebral palsy victim, epileptic person, or afflicted by multiple sclerosis. Emphasize the need for accessibility, not the disability Use Accessible parking or bathroom, not the terms Handicapped parking or bathroom. Do not use offensive language. Use Person with a physical disability, not the terms Crippled, lame, deformed, invalid, spastic. Use Person with an intellectual, cognitive, developmental disability, not the terms Slow, simple, moronic, defective, afflicted, special person. Use the term Person with and emotional or behavioral disability, a mental health impairment, or a psychiatric disability, not the terms Insane, crazy, psycho, maniac, nuts. Avoid language that implies negative stereotypes Use Person without a disability, not the terms Normal person, healthy person. Do not portray people with disabilities as inspirational only because of their disability. Use Person who is successful, productive, not the terms Has overcome his/her disability, is courageous.
Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
EM, a white bald man in his 50s wears a facemask

EM: We’ve trained our emergency management and public health preparedness staff, first responders and other local government officials about respectful and inclusive language. The training includes explaining identity-first and people-first language.

PJ, in their 30s, wears a facemask and glasses

PJ:  Some people prefer to use “identity-first” language, and say they’re “disabled.” Other people prefer to identify themselves as a “person with a disability.” This is “person-first” language. Here in Disasterville, you’ll hear both used.

Which of the following descriptions would NOT be an example of person-first language?

Person-first language puts the individual at the front of the description, showing that the person is not just their disability. Putting the “person” first also emphasizes their humanity. For example, a person with Down syndrome may want to be described in other ways, not only Down syndrome.

“Deaf woman” is an example of identity-first language. Many Deaf people consider Deafness to be a culture and part of who they are. Other examples of identity-first language are “autistic man” or “disabled person.” Individuals who identify this way would say that their autism or disability is central to who they are, and they’re proud of that.

Carrie, a Black woman in her 30s wears a facemask, has a white cane and a miniature horse that serves as her service animal

Carrie: I was just talking to Sondra about this. Sondra is a college student who is helping us create public education materials on person-first and identity-first language. Let me call her and get her take on this.

📱Sondra? Hey girl! I’m going to put you on speaker for a minute. Tell our trainee Terrye what you were telling me about your disability awareness materials.

Sondra, a Black woman in her 20s, wears a facemask and eyeglasses

Sondra 📱:  I’m between classes so I can talk real quick. When we developed our materials, we made sure to check with folks with disabilities. We wanted to know whether we were using language correctly and respectfully. Different folks had different views on language, but they all agreed it was important to respect those differences. Just like emergency planning, disability is not one-size-fits-all. It’s about how people with a condition or disability want to be described, and we defer to them.

Carrie, a Black woman in her 30s wears a facemask, has a white cane and a miniature horse that serves as her service animal

Carrie: Thanks a ton, Sondra! I’ll say goodbye so you can get to your next class.

EM, a white bald man in his 50s wears a facemask

EM: Disability organizations are familiar with respectful language. The issue is how to handle it if you’re at a meeting with an emergency planner or you’re reading a planning document and you sense bias, misconceptions, or lack of respect. It’s important to share with local planners the community’s preferred language to describe a population or group. 

💭Read these lines from a local emergency plan. This is the part of the plan that describes how residents will receive COVID-19 vaccines. What do you notice about this language?

People with Disabilities

Those who have mobility limitations or difficulty following directions should be assigned an escort throughout the Emergency Dispensing Site COVID-19 vaccination process.

Make sure that at least one Emergency Dispensing Site in this community or a neighboring community is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

 

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