*Blog Series: Words Matter (Post 2)
Adults get very emotional about language: tone, intention, attitude, inflection, even method of communication (email, text, phone, meeting, tweet, etc.) and the mode of delivery (in a group, in a comment field on social media, in private, reply all, etc.) Who's included or not included to hear (or know) what's being said can also have an impact . . . but, regardless of the actual language spoken, it is often the words themselves that carry the true power.
As I mentioned in Post #1 in this blog series, "jargon junk" is what colors the words - albeit, favorably or unfavorably - giving them power or minimizing the power they already have.
In this blog-post, I simply want to do my part as a community member, a Eurekan, a human resources professional, and a kind-hearted human being to simply share this information with you.
It is 2023 and times are different. The words we use are different. How people speak to each other now is different.
This isn't rose-colored. This is real life. Evolution and change is real and expected, yet, people continue to resist and hold on to what's safe, what's known, what's always been understood and what we continue to believe.
I truly hope that, like me, you learn something from this information. In the depths of my research, I certainly did.
"People often disrespect others when they don't fully understand. I hope that this blog-series, WORDS MATTER, fosters both understanding and respect for all."
People with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty and to experience other forms of discrimination and violence than non-disabled people. They are more likely to have difficulty accessing education and employment when institutions are not set up to support their needs. In humanitarian emergencies, people with disabilities are also disproportionately affected and face greater barriers in accessing humanitarian assistance, protection and support.
PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY / DISABILITIES
It is important to respect how individual people with disabilities prefer to be referred to and to describe a person affected by a particular disability/disabilities, without defining them by their particular health issue.
‘People with a disability/disabilities’ is more respectful as a term as it places the emphasis on the individual, as opposed to defining that person by their disability or using the acronym ‘PWD’ (people/person(s) with disabilities.)
If you are unsure what term to use, ask. Depending on the place/community/person, ‘people who are disabled’ and ‘people who are differently-abled’ are also acceptable terms. If in doubt, check with disability organizations in the area/country/region where you are located.
PEOPLE LIVING WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
First and foremost, it is best to avoid words like: mental, mental patient, psychotic, OCD, and manic depressive.
It's most appropriate to describe a person as "living with" and to avoid conflating day-to-day behaviors with diagnosed illnesses.
It is important to show respect and sensitivity when using language around mental health and avoid words and phrases that imply or exacerbate stigmatization of people living with mental health issues. By describing people as ‘living with’ an illness we avoid defining them solely by their health issues.
Ableism is the discrimination in favor of non-disabled people. It also refers to the practices and dominant attitudes in society that exclude, devalue and limit the potential of people with disabilities.
An ableist society is one that treats non-disabled individuals as the standard of ‘normal living’, which results in public and private places and services, education and social work that are built to serve only non-disabled people, thereby creating barriers for people with disabilities.
Not having a disability is not generally acknowledged as a privilege but is frequently assumed to be a norm. We must work to understand and support the needs of all people, and actively respond to address the needs of people with disabilities.
PEOPLE OVER/UNDER X, ELDERLY PEOPLE, OLDER PEOPLE, ELDERS, YOUNG PEOPLE
We use these words to appropriately describe people of a particular age group and we avoid words like: the elderly, seniors, youth, "those Millennials."
The key here is to refer to people that are older and younger in a way that affords respect and dignity and avoid phrases which are homogenizing or patronizing. Young people is a much better choice than "those Millennials."
There is so much more to cover in this blog-series, so please check back for Post #3.
In Post #1, we focused on LGBTQIA+ and here in Post #2, we focused on people with disabilities and of different ages.
When I think of other powerful words that need more understanding by many, words like: misogyny, instrumentalism, spokesperson, deadnaming, cis-normative, pro-choice, illegal migrants, and so much more come to mind and will receive their attention in the coming posts of this blog-series.
Social change by its very nature is disruptive. Please join me in this journey as we seek to learn and understand things better in order to properly disrupt the comfort of the status quo in the hope of dismantling oppressive structures that do not create pathways to equality.
Learning new (disruptive) information can be a very challenging process but it is necessary to understand how power works within and beyond our words.
Words matter and I will personally forever endeavor to seek out ways where I can improve and harness the language I use in more productive, effective, empathetic ways when connecting with other human beings. Doing so is an expression of love. ❤️