A Reminder About A Word We Shouldn’t Use And Some More Thoughts On Avoiding Labels
We said this week that a man was “mentally retarded.”
“Retarded” is not a word we use to describe anyone. It’s among the “words that hurt.”
Joe Shapiro, who has done a lot of reporting and thinking about this, suggests phrases such as “intellectual disability” or “developmentally disabled” and that they be used with a “people first” approach. That is, put the person before the condition. Say “a man with an intellectual disability” rather than “a mentally retarded man.”
If you can’t seem to avoid a label, the AP recommends “mentally disabled,” “intellectually disabled” or “developmentally disabled.” But those aren’t great alternatives, as is often the case with labels.
As for labels, reminders are in order:
No. 1: “It is generally best to avoid labeling people, especially with terms that partisans have chosen.” Use “action words” to describe people rather than pinning them with labels.
No. 2: It’s certainly almost always best “to avoid labeling people who have medical conditions.” As we’ve written before, “it’s better to say someone ‘has been diagnosed with schizophrenia’ rather than ‘is a schizophrenic.’ Or, ‘she is being treated for anorexia’ rather than ‘she is an anorexic.’ Or, ‘he is diabetic,’ instead of ‘he is a diabetic.’ ”
No. 3: Pay particularly close attention to the way you refer to people who have gone through traumatic experiences. We’ve previously discussed the language regarding survivors of sexual assault.
(“Memmos;” April 22, 2016)
April 22, 2016