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”Person with an Impairment”
”Person with an Impairment”Posted by Josh Grisdale on August 30, 2021 at 4:10 pm
I was doing a talk that was translated in realtime for the Government of Tokyo and they informed me that they would be using the phrase “person with an impairment”. I thought that maybe the translator had made a mistake and suggested they meant “person with a disability”. They said that it was a requirement from the IPC.
Here I am again, a native English speaker out of touch with the latest words and phrases!
I still usually only see PWD etc on Twitter. Has “person with an impairment” not caught on? Should I switch?
MemberSeptember 1, 2021 at 2:52 am
Well, I’m a non-native speaker, though I have many friends on Twitter from the disability community and they mostly use “disabled people” or “people with disabilities” depending on their preference regarding person-first language.
As for “people with impairments”, in some scientific literature I’ve seen “people with visual impairments” or “people with speech impairments”, but to me it sounds either a bit more medical or a bit more academic than PwD. Also, I’ve always seen it with a noun complementing it, as in “visual”, “speech”, etc., though never on its own.
Finally, the latest texts that I’ve read from the European Disability Forum (the organization that represents PwD at the European Union) mostly use “persons or people with disabilities”.
Personally I like PwD or disabled people. Don’t remove my disability ; ) So I’d just say what you feel more comfortable with.
MemberSeptember 2, 2021 at 8:15 pm
OK, good to know I’m not the only one who hasn’t seen it in common use.
It is so hard to keep up sometimes!
OrganizerOctober 11, 2021 at 9:58 pm
Also a non-native English speaker here, with a question about the use of the word ‘impairment’. In a situation (e.g. an exhibition,…) where tactile and audio information aren’t provided, you could say that the accessibility needs of people with a visual impairment were overlooked. Or is there a better way to say it?
MemberOctober 11, 2021 at 10:04 pm
I think so. I have always heard / seen “impairment” with visual or hearing.
OrganizerOctober 11, 2021 at 10:14 pm
Okay, so I understand that impairment is not a taboo word. It’s just one of the reasons why somebody may have accessibility requirements. Thank you!
MemberOctober 11, 2021 at 10:59 pm
Yeah, from what I know, “visual impairment” and “hearing impairment” are commonly used (if I’m wrong, someone please correct me!).
I had never heard “persons with impairments” until the Paralympics. But, the more I go over it in my head, I can see it may be better than “person with a disability”. Disability focuses on a lack of ability, whereas impairment means something (barrier) is in the way of ability …
ModeratorOctober 12, 2021 at 3:20 am
Generally from what I’ve seen, the average American tends to say “Disabled Person,” arguably it’s an improvement over “The Handicapped,” which is seen as crude and insulting (Over the last decade or so even the “Handicapped Parking” signs have been traded out for “Disabled Parking,” I don’t remember exactly when I last saw the former).
Government jargon is still a bit mixed, but seems like handicapped is mostly out and disabled person and/or person with a disability (PwD) is preferred. However, I think sometimes it may be a matter of text space/cost to write “Disabled Parking” instead of “Person’s with Disabilities Parking,” this includes building design plans where you may have limited space to write as much information as possible (I often used abbreviations or shorter words in the plans I made).
Education system can also be a bit mixed, typically “Disabled Student” by the general education populous, and “Student with a Disability” by those who teach students with Exceptionalities (I’ve seen some great teachers educate other teachers of the difference in how one puts the person before the disability instead of the opposite). Exceptional Student Education (ESE) teachers are probably the greatest advocates for using terms like PwD, but also in avoiding such terms as much as possible (i.e. the student learns differently). You can usually tell the difference in the Education of the author (Gen. Ed. vs. ESE background) of college textbooks because of this.
As for Impairment, I almost always hear it paired with visual or hearing. I don’t recall it being used for a general disability in decades (even then I only remember a doctor once asking, “what’s your impairment?” and thought it odd even then). Attached with visual/hearing, I also see it typically under the umbrella of PwD, just used to specify a particular disability. I highly doubt that “Person with Impairment” will replace PwD here in the US, it would probably be more confusing as well.
MemberOctober 12, 2021 at 9:12 am
Thanks for that answer – I wonder if there is a regional aspect as well (like that is more common in Europe etc). Or if it is just a new term.
But it also highlights that it is important to use the terms people want you to use, and the only way you are going to find that out is by talking to us!
ModeratorOctober 12, 2021 at 9:35 am
I figure it could be a regional thing as well. For example, in terms of accessibility “barrier-free” was completely foreign to me until I saw it used by Japan. I thought at first it was referring to actual barricades, but it does make sense to me now and I translate that term to my friends as “accessible.” So, I feel like other places may have variations in different terms that don’t translate directly.
Personally I’m not to irritated by many of the terms, though I will tell someone if one is particularly crude or offensive (the “r” word for example) and explain why. Like all of us, I just want the respect you’d give any person, so I’m okay if someone doesn’t use the newest term (so long as they aren’t purposefully using it in a derogatory manner), at least they are trying.
OrganizerOctober 12, 2021 at 9:37 am
OrganizerOctober 12, 2021 at 5:05 pm
It may shock you, but ‘handicap’ is still a very common term in French and Dutch. Probably because the word has no negative associations here (and it was a big improvement to the old terms “invalid” or “less valid”).
In the Arab world, I’ve seen “determined”, but personally, I’m not feeling this. Not a big fan of “challenged” either, I’m afraid. But of course, I respect people who like to use these terms for themselves.
ModeratorOctober 13, 2021 at 2:59 am
For more then the first half of my life I referred to myself as “handicapped,” I do have a few memories of it being used in a derogatory manner (mostly in my youth by other kids, who were probably lashing out for other reasons), so I’m happy with the change. Nevertheless, as an adult now if someone refers to my disability as a “handicap” it doesn’t bother me. ????
ModeratorOctober 12, 2021 at 3:29 am
“Challenge Breaker,” now that’s a term I could get behind, after all aren’t People with Disabilities given extra challenges to overcome? (Haha maybe I’ve played too many videogames ????)
MemberOctober 12, 2021 at 9:07 am
Haha, yeah, sounds like a platinum achievement ???? But we deserve it
MemberOctober 12, 2021 at 10:11 pm
As a person that doesn’t have a disability I rely on my friends and advocates to let me know if there is a new way to say something.
In Canada, its all people first language that I am told is preferred. Person with a disability or who has a disability. Use the word disability over any other. Deaf people like to be called Deaf, and blind people like to be called blind, no impairment. Which, is the opposite to person first. However, deaf people identify with their deafness as a culture, and feel deaf explains who they are, so should come first. My friend who is blind says impairment assumes she only needs certain types of help, without someone asking her. Yes, sometimes she can get by, but sometimes needs assistance. She’d rather say Blind, someone can offer help and she can explain where she would need it.
Then, there is aoways someone that will disagree and you address them the way they’d like.
This is a great convo.
MemberOctober 12, 2021 at 10:18 pm
The point about deaf culture was great, I had not thought about it as an identity like that before.
ModeratorOctober 13, 2021 at 3:19 am
Likewise to what Josh said, I wasn’t sure if people living with hearing impairments saw the word “Deaf” as a positive term. It is interesting to see the word integrated into the culture. I saw this a bit when I was researching for the article I wrote on Accessible Japan (Starbucks: A Sign of Change, and Understanding in Sign, link below) but I wasn’t entirely sure if I should use “Deaf” in the article. Ultimately, I chose people with hearing impairments, figuring that some with partial hearing may or may not consider themselves as deaf, and we don’t want to offend anyone.
I wouldn’t mind hearing more opinions from people with hearing impairments on what they prefer.
Link to Article:
MemberOctober 14, 2021 at 6:08 am
I’ve always struggled with what kind of terminology to refer to myself as. I prefer “unilateral hearing impairment” (which means deaf in one ear, and I have an impairment in my “good” ear as well), but most people don’t know what that means. If I say Deaf, hearies will generally think I’m “completely” deaf, and until recently I’ve hesitated calling myself Deaf to Deaf community members because I grew up without sign language and my sign language skills (whether ASL or JSL) are not good enough to use only sign. However, I’ve recently embraced calling myself Deaf since, as others have noted, it’s more about designating a way of life or cultural outlook as opposed to a demarcator of any specific physical embodiment, and my perspective is that Deaf culture is big enough to include a diversity of embodiments and fluencies with sign. Calling myself Deaf is my way of aligning myself with struggles for access and community care and my way of acknowledging the personal struggles and ways of living I have experienced throughout my life. Some would disagree, though. There’s always an argument over what the “right” things to say are, and I generally defer to whatever people are comfortable with in any given situation.
The basic gist is that “Deaf” is a cultural connotater, “deaf” is a physical reference to a spectrum of hearing impaired sometimes classified as “profound,” and “D/deaf” is a way to refer to both. “Person with a hearing impairment,” “hard of hearing,” “hearing impaired” are generally used not necessarily at the exclusion of a Deaf identity but moreso emphasizes a physical embodiment of partly-hearing and partly-deaf.
And this is just English! There’s a whole other parallel conversation in Japanese, of course 🙂
ModeratorOctober 14, 2021 at 8:33 am
Thank you for sharing your perspective. ???? I wondered if there was similar distinctions between people living with different hearing challenges. I guess it is a similar struggle, but it’s also nice to see the culture bloom from it and hopefully help raise each other up in the process.
MemberOctober 13, 2021 at 5:05 pm
Great discussion topic, as ever it underlines how powerful language is.
The uk govt has guidance on inclusive language:
As you will see, the language is not necessarily fixed and needs to sensitive to the audience E.g. it says:
Don’t automatically refer to ‘disabled people’ in all communications – many people who need disability benefits and services don’t identify with this term. Consider using ‘people with health conditions or impairments’ if it seems more appropriate.
In the UK you will also see the term deaf and disabled people used https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/directory/listing/
Language is not easy, a key point though is I think, it must always be rooted in respect and if people are comfortable with different terms used we must acknowledge that. This presents a big challenge in marketing inclusive tourism. What words do you use, will they be matched by the search terms being used by a person the other side of the globe?