A Few Exceptions
Language is continually evolving, and no rule is absolute. Here are a few notable exceptions to person-first language.
- Deaf/deaf. As a group, this population typically refers to itself as the Deaf or Deaf community (with a capital D) rather than people who are deaf. They identify with a specific community made up of those who share a common language, American Sign Language, and culture.
- Disability humor. Some people with disabilities who embrace the culture of disability refer to themselves with the same offensive terms that we urge you to avoid. This familiarity is a form of disability humor and should not be adopted by those outside of the group.
- Identity language. Some people prefer “identity language” to person-first language as a way to signal their disability pride. Thus, a person who values her autism as an inseparable and important part of who she is might proudly say, “I am autistic,” in the same way she describes herself as an American. Similarly, many regard a blind man as a neutral descriptor (the same as a tall man), and amputee is more often used than a person with an amputation.
Still, the guiding principle remains: Accord people with disabilities the dignity that all people want. By using person-first language, you will maintain objectivity and convey respect.