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A Note On Language

The form of language that is used around discussions of chronic illness and disability is a subject of a wider ongoing discussion in the community. Broadly speaking, there are two different forms of language that can be used when discussing individuals with chronic illness or disability.

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Person-First Language is where you mention the individual and then the health condition(s).

e.g. "people with disabilities"

Identity-First Language is where the health condition is mentioned before the individual.

e.g. "disabled people"

Historically, person-first language has been thought to be more considerate, as it emphasises that the individual is not defined by their condition. It has therefore been more widely used, especially by medical professionals, and is sometimes thought to be the "right" way to speak on this topic.


However, identity-first language has been increasing in popularity more recently, as an acknowledgement that disability and chronic illness can affect virtually every aspect of a person's life.   Our community's adoption of the "spoonie" self-description is an example of this. It also reflects the fact that being disabled or chronically ill should not be seen as negative. Being disabled is often something that is imposed on people, rather than being caused by their condition, and is not a reflection of their worth. .  

Neither form of language is considered universally right or wrong, and it is often acceptable to use either, or both, when writing on these topics. However, there are some communities that may have a stronger preference for the form of language used. For example, when discussing Autism, identity-first language is usually preferred - i.e., the community should be referred to as "Autistic people" rather than "people with Autism".


If you are writing about a specific group, it is polite to ask in advance or do some research to find out if they have a preferred form of language. 

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