I’d like to challenge Harrisburg business owners and residents to consider this quote as it relates to people with disabilities.
When I was just 15 years old, a high school football accident suddenly caused me to need to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Certainly unexpected for me, the truth is, having a disability is surprisingly common. Dauphin County is home to more than 32,000 people living with disabilities, and in the United States, approximately one in five people have a disability.
With an aging population and veterans returning from war, this number will rise. Businesses and city residents need to know how to communicate and ensure inclusion of people with disabilities.
We can ignite this inclusion by changing how we speak. Categorizing people causes segregation, and the fear of using the wrong terminology is equally debilitating. Using “people first” language is an easy solution. It simply means naming the person first and the disability second. For example, you should say “people with disabilities” instead of “the disabled” or say “a person who uses a wheelchair” instead of “a wheelchair-bound person.”
We also need to encourage city residents to ask questions and be inquisitive, as it drives understanding. Living in a diverse community, we all encounter others who are different from us. Ask questions, learn and clarify with the individual if you are unsure of the appropriate assistance to offer or how to handle a situation.