An Introductory Guide to Disability Language and Empowerment

An Introductory Guide to Disability Language and Empowerment

Normally, this language aims at providing information on the different types of language that are employed regularly during communication about disability. However, this language does not necessarily address on the concepts and terminologies encountered during communication. The language only acts as a guide on the information that is contained in communication.

The Syracuse University Disability Cultural Center (DCC) has been active in the promotion of disability language and empowerment. Through the language the university aims at showcasing its commitment in the promotion of the disability cultures as well as the disability pride in the society.
While in the introduction to the disability language and empowerment, readers do not necessarily need to have knowledge on the concepts used. At the same time, due to the politicizing of “disability culture” and “disability pride”, DCC aims at creating a guide that is politically neutral and which does not take any side in politics.

DCC also intends to provide its readers with information about concepts and how they normally relate with the use of the disability language. However, DCC does not force any reader or individual to agree or disagree with them.

DCC has aimed at making the guide to be accessible in the best way possible to anyone who needs to access it. Some of the individuals who may need to access the guide include: students, faculty, parents, staff, teachers, and even the community members who have or who lack any disabilities or disabilities identity.

An Introductory Guide to Disability Language and EmpowermentWhy is the Disability Language Important?

It may feel like the whole thing is all about “political correctness’ and also semantics. Also, other individuals may have a notion that using a language which feels polite and inoffensive and one which is associated with political correctness is unnecessary.

However, offensive language is considered offensive due several factors and reasons. At the same time, the words and concepts that have been used for long to discuss and describe the disabled people are associated with specific histories and implications especially among the disabled people.

Excluding politicization in the language is aimed at making it neutral for everyone. Normally, “political correct’ words may feel like abuse or insult to a group of people while they appeal to others in respect and appreciation. Therefore, DCC does not want to be associated with this.

What is “People-first Language”? Does Everyone Use It?

This is the language that is phrased in a way that names a person before describing their disability, for example, woman with cerebral palsy or man with intellectual disability. This is a respectful language that shows that disability is only a single characteristic of someone and not the entire description of them. The language opposes the disability-first language which shows little respect for the disabled. It also helps the disabled to see their disability as just a single part of their whole self.

What does it Mean to “Reclaim a Word’ and Why Is it Important “To Reclaim’?

This is usually done by a group of people. When a group of people “reclaim a word’, they show that the word was used to produce a meaning against them, for example, the word “queer” that was reclaimed by LGBT community. In the disability side, the word, “crip” has been reclaimed severally by different disabled people groups in order to make people understand when, why, and how the word affects the disabled in a negative way.

Capitalization Essence

Capitalization of certain letters in some words or phrases among the disabled produces different meanings. For instance, “deaf” may be used to mean a person with hearing disability while “Deaf” is used to refer to membership or affiliation regarding to the Deaf culture or Deaf Community.


Learning the disability language is important to ensure etiquette and utmost respect while talking to or addressing the disabled persons. DCC has embarked on making the disability language popular in order to achieve respect and empowerment for the disabled.

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