Notes on Language

In this workshop, I'll generally use what has come to be called "person-first" language, such as "people with disabilities" or "scientist with spinal cord injuries." Person-first language is generally used to emphasize that disability is one aspect of an individual's identity, and perhaps not the most important.

Increasingly, members of specific disabled communities have begun to adopt what has come to be called "identity-first" language, such as disabled person, deaf scientist, or "blind researcher." As a blind researcher myself, I tend to prefer this language, which tends to regard a disabled identity as non-secondary.

Broadly, if you're writing grants, public posts, or papers for an audience unfamiliar with disability, you'll likely want to stick with person-first language, but expect that different communities may have strong opinions about person-first language, identity-first language, or even the word "disabled." I do firmly beleive that genuine respect and good will does tend to come through despite choices and trends related to language.

You may see the abbreviation "a11y" used in accessibility contexts. It's a numeronym for "accessibility," i.e. and "a," eleven letters, and a "y." You can pronounce it as "accessibility," though you may sometimes hear "a-eleven-y" or "ally."