Sometimes A Turn Of Phrase Is A Wrong Turn

a silhouette of many different people with the words 'people first' in the centerI realize it was more than likely a problem of word count. Or of column width. (“Providers Agree System is Troubled,” Providence Journal. Jan. 16, 2014, A1-2) Nonetheless, when direct attribution is provided, the quote should be accurate. Although I had no problem with the paraphrased paragraph that preceded the quote, I had a big problem with the quote:

“The problem was he was only working with the disabled,” she said. “I believed he was capable of more.”

What’s the big deal? What’s the difference between saying “people with disabilities,” and its compressed counterpart, “the disabled” (to the general public at least)? Does anyone remember hearing Donald Trump say “the blacks?” Or Stephen Colbert’s character say “the gays?” Those phrases are offensive. The difference is that “the disabled”, like “the blacks,” and “the gays,” are people first! None of these groups are individuals who should be lumped together by having one aspect of their persona in common.

Click here to read the rest of the article about using person-first language and about a recent misquote in the Providence Journal.

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