A word on Language:
IDENTITY FIRST VS PERSON FIRST LANGUAGE
With thanks to People With Disability Australia (PWDA)
Both person first and identity first language are used in Australia to refer to people with disability, or disabled people. People with disability often have very strong preferences for either identity first, or person first language. Non-disabled people need to be led by, respect and affirm the each individual person with disability’s choice of language they use about themselves. PWDA, other Disabled People’s Organisations, governments, government and non-government institutions predominantly use ‘person-first’ language when referring to people with disability. Generally, this is on the basis that a person’s disability should not be unnecessarily focused on. The dehumanisation of people with disability is still a huge problem and has been for a long period of history, so we choose to preface our language with a reminder of personhood.
Defining people by their disability is often used as an excuse to ignore their humanity – to put them in a separate and lesser category so that non-disabled people don’t have to think about the wants, needs, rights or feelings of people with disability.
Many people with disability also embrace ‘identity-first’ language, which positions disability as an identity category. This language is known as ‘identity-first’ because the identifying word comes first in the sentence and highlights the person’s embrace of their identity. For example, “I am a disabled person, like I am an Australian person or a bisexual person.” For disabled people, their disability is an aspect of their person that they can’t control, but that they embrace as part of who they are. As an identity category, disability does not merely describe an individual body or mind, but membership within a wider cultural group. Some specific disability communities, such as Autistic and Deaf communities, will primarily use identity-first language, and may prefer not to refer to themselves as disabled at all. Affirming disability as an identity positions the individual to personally identify as disabled, by their own choice, rather than being told they are disabled by an external (usually non-disabled) ‘authority.’
No Lights No Lycra acknowledges that language is complex and individual. When communicating with individuals, we are committed to using that person’s language of choice and welcome feedback and open dialogue. To honour the complexities of language, this website will use a mix of Person-first and Identity-first language.
To communicate further with us on this (or any other issue) please click here.