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The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) offers information and resources to help employers recruit, hire, retain and advance people with disabilities; build inclusive workplace cultures; and meet diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) goals. 

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Person First and Identity First Language

Learn more about the use of person first and identity first language when communicating about people with disabilities. 

Person first language emphasizes the person before the disability, for example “person who is blind” or “people with spinal cord injuries.” Identity first language puts the disability first in the description, e.g., “disabled” or “autistic." Person first or identify first language is equally appropriate depending on personal preference. When in doubt, ask the person which they prefer.  

It is important to note that while person first language is often used in more formal writing, many people with disabilities, particularly younger people, are choosing to use identity first language. How a person chooses to self-identify is up to them, and they should not be corrected or admonished if they choose not to use person first language.

Below are just a few examples of the appropriate use of people-first language.
Affirmative Phrases Negative Phrases
Person with an intellectual, cognitive, developmental disability Retarded, Mentally defective
Person who is blind, Person who is visually impaired The blind
Person with a disability The disabled, Handicapped
Person who is deaf The deaf, Deaf and dumb
Person who is hard of hearing Suffers a hearing loss
Person who has multiple sclerosis Afflicted by MS
Person with cerebral palsy CP victim
Person with epilepsy, Person with a seizure disorder Epileptic
Person who uses a wheelchair Wheelchair bound, Confined to a wheelchair
Person who has muscular dystrophy Stricken by MD
Person with a physical disability Crippled, Lame, Deformed
Person who is unable to speak, Person who uses synthetic speech Dumb, Mute
Person with a psychiatric disability Crazy, Nuts
Person who is successful, productive Has overcome his/her disability, Is courageous (when it implies the person has courage because of having a disability)
Person who is in recovery from a substance abuse disorder Addict

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