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AASPIRE’s Use of “Person First Language”

AASPIRE places great value on the respectful use of language. However, there are many different, valid perspectives on the appropriate use of language in regards to disability.

Many people with disabilities prefer the use of “person first language”–that is, putting the “person” before the disability that they have. As such, AASPIRE refers to “people with disabilities”, not “disabled people” in all our materials.

On the other hand, like the Deaf community, many people in the Autistic self-advocacy community prefer the term “autistic person” to “person with autism.” As a community-based participatory research project, it is extremely important that we respect the preferences of our community partners. As such, AASPIRE does not use person-first language in regards to autism. We recognize that this is a controversial issue and that reasonable people may come to opposite conclusions. We do not wish to cause offense to anyone and hope that people who prefer person-first language can understand our choice to respect the wishes of the autistic self-advocacy community.

Here are some links to more information about person first language.

  • Jim Sinclair’s seminal piece on the primary issues with person first language from within the Autistic community, Why I dislike “person first” language.
  • Wikipedia’s brief discussion of person first language which draws some parallels between the Autistic and Deaf communities.
  • An excellent piece on language and identity politics in the context of the greater disabilities community which goes to show that there is no one rule to follow when it comes to language, The Language of Disability.

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