Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri
Disability Awareness Patch Program
Person-First Respectful Language
Before your troop members begin working on their project, it will be beneficial for them to learn about Disability
Etiquette. This information will help the troop know what is and what is not respectful language and behavior to
use when interacting with people who have disabilities.
RSON-FIRST RESPECTFUL LANGUAGE
Using person-first respectful language puts the person before the disability and describes what disability a person
has, not who a person is. It eliminates generalizations, assumptions and stereotypes by focusing on the person
rather than the disability.
• Talk about the person first, then the disability. Say “a person with a disability” rather than “a disabled
person.” Remember, if a person’s disability is not important to the story or conversation, don’t mention it.
• It is okay to offer help to a person with a disability, but wait until your offer is accepted BEFORE you help.
Listen to instructions the person might give, or other assistive devices.
• Leaning on a person’s wheelchair is like leaning or hanging on a person and is usually considered annoying
and rude. The chair is a part of the individual’s body space and should be respected as such.
• When offering help to a person who is blind or partially sighted, allow that person to take your arm. This
will enable you to guide, rather than lead the person. Use specific directions, such as “go left two feet” or
“take six steps to the right.”
• When talking to a person who has a disability, speak directly to the person, not through a friend.
• Relax! Don’t be embarrassed if you say things like, “See ya later” to someone who is partially sighted, o
“Gotta run” to a person in a wheelchair.
• To get the attention of a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, tap them on the shoulder or wave. Look
irectly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively to determine if they read lips. NOTE: N
ll people who are deaf or hard of hearing can read lips. Those who do rely on facial expressions and body
language for understanding. Stay in the light and keep food, hands and other objects away from your
mouth. Do not shout. Use written notes to convey messages.
• When speaking for more than a few minutes with a person who uses a wheelchair, place yourself at eye
level with that person.
• When greeting a person with a visual disability, always identify yourself and others. For example, you ca
say, “On my right is John Smith.” Speak in a normal tone of voice. Let them know when you move from one
place to another.
Person-first Respectful Language Language to avoid
A person who has Down syndrome A Down’s kid
A person who has autism An autistic person
Person with a cognitive or developmental disability Slow, retarded, simple, special
Person with a physical disability Crippled, deformed
Congenital disability or birth anomaly Birth defect/affliction
Accessible buses, bathrooms, etc. Handicapped buses, bathrooms, etc.