Media Matters

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. The Arcadia Institute understands the impact that media has upon shaping perceptions of persons with disabilities. “Recently in the news there have been stories about adults and children with disabilities in our community. Some stories have been positive about people with disabilities being included in very meaningful ways. Yet, other stories have been about people with disabilities being misunderstood and even unwelcomed.” Join the Connect Kalamazoo Network (MLive August 2013)

One very useful way to insure that respect is being communicated through the choice of words is to learn about and apply "Person First Language." PFL respectfully puts the person before the disability; and a person with a disability is more like people without disabilities.

The benefits far outweigh the challenges of the time it takes to think through and select the most optimum and respectful choice of words to describe the situation regarding persons with disabilities. Until it happens to you or a loved one or friend, it may be considered simply a subtle difference in word placement. I can speak from personal experience as I am a very actively engaged member of this community. I also happen to have mobility and access challenges due to the loss of my left leg. I use a prosthetic leg and have baffled many with my level of independence as a person who owns and drives a car, lives in a two-story home and is working towards returning to a functional level of bike riding by this time next year.

I do consider myself a person with a disability, but that is secondary to my identity as an active and engaged member of this community, my family, church and circle of friends.  Overtime, my life-in-action-inclusive has become a visual education of my capabilities more so than my disability. When my name occasionally makes it to the media I have never been described as a disabled small business owner, employee, family member or friend.

Consciously and intentionally take the time to think before you describe or define a person with disabilities. This is especially important in the media, because print becomes a permanent record that has the power to influence, shape or misshape perceptions of persons with disabilities.

I challenge this community to aspire to be known for more than a Kalamazoo Promise in the area of higher education. Why not also be known as the city that is inclusive with intention across the board. It’s not only the respectful thing to do, its ultimately good for business. In closing, I ask you to ponder the question, who do you say YOU are? Let us as a community extend that same courtesy to those of us who are different but equally able.  This cartoon pretty much sums it up for this topic.