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terminology related to disability
Thread poster: Marie-Hélène Hayles

Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:04
Italian to English
+ ...
Apr 5, 2006

I'm currently translating a document on making e-learning didactic content accessible to students with disabilities.

As this area is a potential minefield with regard to terminology, I looked up various websites and found that (apart from the obvious advice of not using offensive terminology such as "deaf and dumb") the main guideline was "put the person first, then the disability" - i.e. write "students with disabilities" or "users who are blind" rather than "disabled students" or "blind users".

Now while I completely agree with this in principle, the fact is that a term of this kind appears in about every other sentence in a 20 page article, and I think that a too-strict adherence would have a severe impact on the readability of the final result.

I'd be particularly interested in hearing the opinion of any translators with disabilities on the necessity of complying with this guideline, and also whether the term "differently abled" was (as I suspect) dreamt up through well-meaning attempts at political correctness rather than being the terminology preferred by people with disabilities.

Marie-Hélène


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Eva Middleton  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:04
German to English
my opinion as a parent Apr 5, 2006

Hello Marie-Helene,

I have a daughter with Down's syndrome and hearing loss. This kind of question is one that is often hotly discussed on various disability mailing lists, and to be honest there are a good number of people who are not too bothered about having 'people first' language (although in the case of Down's syndrome most people strongly object to the expression 'Down's child' as it's like saying 'epilepsy man').
I generally say that my child has special needs, I don't refer to her as a disabled child - makes me think of a car that's out of action! But I wouldn't be mortally offended if someone else said it - I doubt that I would even notice it as something potentially offensive in a text to be honest.

I think this is one of those areas where it's hard to please everyone, personally I would say that if you make good use of 'people first' language, then it's fine to use 'disabled students' occasionally, too.

Hope this helps and hasn't just made you even more confused.

Marie-Helene Hayles wrote:

I'm currently translating a document on making e-learning didactic content accessible to students with disabilities.

As this area is a potential minefield with regard to terminology, I looked up various websites and found that (apart from the obvious advice of not using offensive terminology such as "deaf and dumb") the main guideline was "put the person first, then the disability" - i.e. write "students with disabilities" or "users who are blind" rather than "disabled students" or "blind users".

Now while I completely agree with this in principle, the fact is that a term of this kind appears in about every other sentence in a 20 page article, and I think that a too-strict adherence would have a severe impact on the readability of the final result.

I'd be particularly interested in hearing the opinion of any translators with disabilities on the necessity of complying with this guideline, and also whether the term "differently abled" was (as I suspect) dreamt up through well-meaning attempts at political correctness rather than being the terminology preferred by people with disabilities.

Marie-Hélène



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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:04
Dutch to English
+ ...
Helpful references Apr 5, 2006

Hi Marie-Helene,

The following links may help:
http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/dissre00.htm

Rule 1
...
States should encourage the portrayal of persons with disabilities by the mass media in a positive way; organizations of persons with disabilities should be consulted on this matter.
States should ensure that public education programmes reflect in all their aspects the principle of full participation and equality.
...

http://www.who.int

There is currently a subtle shift towards a more inclusive use of terminology where the individual comes first and the disability second (a bit like saying Mary is a person with blue eyes instead of blue-eyed Mary). Society makes judgements when certain words are used and instead of seeing the person with disability as a fellow human being, only the disability is seen (and judged). That is why we no longer say "My daughter is in the retarded class". Instead we say "my daughter is in the special needs class".

I think you should use the "new" terminology even if it is long-winded. Sometimes political correctness does serve a purpose and, if your client is trying to sell something, he will have more success if he does not ruffle any feathers.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:04
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Eva, that's very helpful Apr 6, 2006

Eva Middleton wrote:

Hello Marie-Helene,

I have a daughter with Down's syndrome and hearing loss. This kind of question is one that is often hotly discussed on various disability mailing lists, and to be honest there are a good number of people who are not too bothered about having 'people first' language (although in the case of Down's syndrome most people strongly object to the expression 'Down's child' as it's like saying 'epilepsy man').
I generally say that my child has special needs, I don't refer to her as a disabled child - makes me think of a car that's out of action! But I wouldn't be mortally offended if someone else said it - I doubt that I would even notice it as something potentially offensive in a text to be honest.

I think this is one of those areas where it's hard to please everyone, personally I would say that if you make good use of 'people first' language, then it's fine to use 'disabled students' occasionally, too.

Hope this helps and hasn't just made you even more confused.

[/quote]

It's basically the conclusion I'd come to - I've also discussed the issue with a friend of mine whose brother has Downs Syndrome and who works with the Oxford University Disability Service, and she says the same thing.

I appreciate Marijke's point of view, but this is an academic article rather than a product for sale. I shall proceed by using "people first" terminology" throughout the introduction, but then mixing it a bit more in the bulk of the text.

Thanks to both of you for your input.

Marie-Hélène

[Edited at 2006-04-06 08:04]


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:04
English to Spanish
+ ...
hope to attend this discussion tomorrow... Apr 19, 2006

Define or Be Defined: The Question of Disability Language
5:00 - 6:15 p.m.
Millennium Park Room 5th floor, Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St.
312-744-6630, TTY: 312-744-2947
Admission: Free
Sign interpreted, word for word captioning
www.chicagoculturalcenter.org

This interactive panel discussion focuses on the language of disability and its relationship to personal identity, particularly as it pertains to disability arts and culture. Person-first language places the emphasis on the person first and foremost, and the disability as a secondary characteristic. The later “disability pride” movement places the emphasis on disability upfront. This panel includes a variety of personal and professional reflections on this topic from artists, scholars, and an arts therapist. Panel participants include: Carol J. Gill, PhD, Associate Professor of Disability and Human Development at UIC, as moderator and discussant; Rev. Kurt Fondriest, Certified Expressive Arts Therapist A.T.R./C.P.C./BCHHP: Misericordia Home North; Susan Nussbaum, Chicago actress, director and playwright; Jim Ferris PhD, poet and teacher of disability studies and communication arts, University of Wisconsin in Madison; and Chris Bell, PhD Student in English, Nottingham Trent University. Sponsored by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:04
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sounds interesting - I look forward to your feedback! Apr 20, 2006

Susana Galilea wrote:

Define or Be Defined: The Question of Disability Language
5:00 - 6:15 p.m.
Millennium Park Room 5th floor, Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St.
312-744-6630, TTY: 312-744-2947
Admission: Free
Sign interpreted, word for word captioning
www.chicagoculturalcenter.org

This interactive panel discussion focuses on the language of disability and its relationship to personal identity, particularly as it pertains to disability arts and culture. Person-first language places the emphasis on the person first and foremost, and the disability as a secondary characteristic. The later “disability pride” movement places the emphasis on disability upfront. This panel includes a variety of personal and professional reflections on this topic from artists, scholars, and an arts therapist. Panel participants include: Carol J. Gill, PhD, Associate Professor of Disability and Human Development at UIC, as moderator and discussant; Rev. Kurt Fondriest, Certified Expressive Arts Therapist A.T.R./C.P.C./BCHHP: Misericordia Home North; Susan Nussbaum, Chicago actress, director and playwright; Jim Ferris PhD, poet and teacher of disability studies and communication arts, University of Wisconsin in Madison; and Chris Bell, PhD Student in English, Nottingham Trent University. Sponsored by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.


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