Person-first language is such an important aspect of working in a field like Recreation Therapy; after all, we are providing support and advocating for individuals with a wide range of potential limitations. However, often the words and attitudes of others can present additional, unnecessary barriers.

I stumbled upon a resource that I wanted to share because, though not perfect, it’s a great baseline reference for using person-first language in a variety of settings: The National Center on Disability and Journalism published a Disability Language Style Guide, which 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.”

Yes, it’s an American resource and there are bound to be discrepancies among what is spoken in the U.S. and in Canada, but I’ve found it to be a helpful guide. I think it’s important to remember that if you’re unsure, you should respectfully ask someone what type of  language makes them most comfortable. Additionally, person-first language is fluid and usage norms are constantly changing and improving, so it will be hard for a guide like this to ever get it completely “right” – and even so, we will always have to use our best judgement (or of course, inquire) about how an individual prefers to be addressed.

There is a similar Canadian manual published by The Canadian Association of Broadcasters, which is also valuable though a bit less reader-friendly. If you find other comparable resources, please do share them in the comments!

Resource Spotlight: Disability Language Guide