“Spoken language plays a vital role in how we perceive issues. We convey emotions, thought, perceptions, and prejudice through verbal communication. Therefore, it’s important that we choose our words with intent. Which is why it is imperative that we think about how we talk about disability.
~ Lawrence Carter-Long, #SayTheWord
A growing movement called #SayTheWord was started by disability community activist Lawrence Carter-Long to draw attention to terminology. This movement encourages everyone to use the word “disability.” It also implores people to stop using made-up words or euphemisms about disability, such as ‘special needs’ and ‘differently-abled’, which can be harmful.
Inspired by the #SayTheWord movement, we hosted a panel discussion in July 2021, where our esteemed panel of disability, autism, and neurodiversity experts and advocates discussed:
- the history of disability language and the impact of using euphemisms, such as special needs, on people with disability, including children.
- the social model of disability and how barriers are not just physical; some of the most significant barriers are prejudice, discrimination and language
- the difference between person-first and identity-first language, and how to get it right.
- how parents can speak about disability with family and friends.
- how parents can encourage and embrace their child’s identity as a person with disability and be an ally to the disability community.
- How parents address ‘invisible disability’ in different settings.
The insightful discussion challenged assumptions around disability and language. It will leave you with a greater understanding of the importance of the words you use when referring to your child and people with disability, and how as a parent, you can be an ally to the disability community that your child is a member of.