May 19, 2016 2016-05-19
When we’re reporting on special education, we inevitably run up against questions about how we should refer to students with disabilities and to the disabilities themselves. For help, Kristin Gilger, an associate dean at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and director of the National Center on Disabilities and Journalism (NCDJ) at Arizona State University, has put together a Disabilities Language Style Guide to help navigate this minefield. The style guide is intended for journalists, communication professionals, and members of the general public who are seeking the appropriate and accurate language to use when writing or talking about people living with disabilities. The guide covers general terms and words on physical disabilities, hearing and visual impairments, mental and cognitive disabilities, and seizure disorders. Entries are listed in alphabetical order. Each entry provides a definition of the word or term, a summary of how it is used or viewed by disability groups, and guidance, when available, from The Associated Press Stylebook. Finally, each entry includes the NCDJ recommendation, which strives for accuracy and aims to strike a balance between clarity and sensitivity.
Plus: In conjunction with its style guide, NCDJ has published a list of terms to avoid for journalists and members of the general public who are seeking the appropriate and accurate language to use when writing or talking about people living with disabilities. What is considered acceptable language regarding disabilities has changed dramatically over time, and standards continue to adapt as understanding and perceptions evolve. Many of the terms in the list were once widely used and were not always considered offensive but are now widely considered to imply inferiority or have other negative connotations. Others are outdated medical or colloquial terms.