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Disability Rights, Studies & Justice: Language

Provides a background in the frameworks of disability history, disability as a field of academic study, and disability work within justice movements.


President Barack Obama, a black man with black and grey hair in a blue suit, typing to Haben Girma, a black woman with long dark hair in a blue dress.

President Barack Obama communicating over a digital braille device with Haben Girma, an Eritrean-American woman, a disability rights advocate, and the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School. 

What Do You Prefer to be Called?

Every disabled person has their own preferences and level of passion around what they do and do not wish to be called. Like many other identity groups, many people within the disability community choose to reclaim slurs and use them as self-identifiers, such as "cripple", and "mad". Some folks argue vehamently for person-first language ("person with a disability"), some advocate for identity first language ("disabled person"), and others don't care one way or the other. Many terms within our everyday language are historically situated within ableist oppression, so it is valuable to be aware of where language comes from and what it means to different people.