People First

What exactly does the term “People First” mean?

“People First” is a mindset, a way of using language, and a way of seeing the inhabitants of our world as equals. Essentially, it means just what it says; people are people first. People do not fit into slots--handicapped, disabled, mentally ill, crippled. You sort the mail, not people. A person should not be categorized or identified solely by their disability because people are so much more than that. Just like you, people with disabilities have unique personalities, likes and dislikes, and hopes and dreams for their futures.

Historically, a disability has been seen as a “problem,” as something “wrong.” By perceiving a disability as something lacking, we run the risk of carrying this belief over to the person and viewing them as lacking. For instance, how would you feel if people viewed you as less than whole because you have asthma, wear eyeglasses, or have trouble hearing? These are all aspects of one’s individuality, but in no way define who a person is. Our society has a tendency to view disabilities as tragic. Pity is typically the response to these perceived “tragedies." In reality, the problem does not lie within people who have disabilities, but within societal attitudes and perceptions. Commonly, people who have disabilities don’t view their disability as a problem, but as an attribute. What a wonderful concept to think that all of society could have the same view!

What steps can be taken to change these misperceptions?

Hopefully you will come up with some answers to that question as you explore the links on this page. A good place to start is with People First Language. Before being able to discuss issues about disability, one should know how to talk about disability. Some exercises and activities have been provided for you so that you may gain a better understanding and awareness of people with disabilities and the issues and attitudes that they face every day.