What It Should Have Been: Edition #6

By Jorain Ng

I can’t believe this but we’re now into Round Six of DPA’s public education initiative on proper terminology to describe persons with disabilities. Let’s hope this segment will end by the tenth edition. (For first-time readers, find out more here.)

*****

Channel News Asia, 10 August 2015
Abuse cases involving disabled go largely unreported: Social workers

Original:
The entire article, including the headline, contain words like disabled or disabled people.

Amended:
The more appropriate term is people with disabilities.

Why?
It is only respectful to refer to people with disabilities as individuals first.

SG Enable says: People with disabilities are individuals first. Their disabling condition or conditions are only one part of who they are. So as far as possible, refer to the person first, then the disability.

*****

Channel News Asia, 24 August 2015
Minds students do their bit for society

Original:
The visit is part of a Minds push to get its students and beneficiaries – from Minds homes, and employment and training centres – to contribute to society, and also to integrate and socialise with able-bodied volunteers through school or corporate pairings.

Amended:
The visit is part of a Minds push to get its students and beneficiaries – from Minds homes, and employment and training centres – to contribute to society, and also to integrate and socialise with volunteers without disabilities through school or corporate pairings.

Why?
The opposite of “people with disabilities” is not “able-bodied” or “abled”. These terms suggest that people with disabilities are not “able”.

*****

Straits Times, 17 September 2015
Inclusive gym that caters for folk with disabilities

Original:
The entire article uses terms such as deaf and blind people, able-bodied friends, and visually handicapped.

Amended:
The more appropriate terms are people with a visual disability, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, friends without disabilities, and people with a visual disability. 

Why?
As above, please use people-first language to refer to people with disabilities respectfully and appropriately, and avoid using terms like “able-bodied” to refer to people who do not have a disability. The term “handicapped” is also an outdated or offensive term because it implies that persons with disabilities have an imposed disadvantage.

*****

Straits Times, 28 September 2015
Rules on parking labels for disabled set to be tightened

Original:
The entire article, including the headline, is peppered by words such as the disabled, able-bodied, disabled drivers, disabled passengers.

Amended:
The more appropriate terms are people with disabilities, people without disabilities, drivers with disabilities and passengers with disabilities.

Why?
Again, people with disabilities are individuals first. So please refer to them as such.

*****

Here are more examples of incorrect terminologies found in Singapore’s local newspapers: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4 and Part 5. But local newspapers are not the only ones I found using inappropriate terminologies. I’ve caught international news channel like BBC News using words like “wheelchair bound” and “disabled person”. Take, for example, the following news articles by BBC News:

BBC News, 19 October 2015
Model role for teenager with spinal disorder

Original:
She underwent a six-hour operation to prevent the condition from making her wheelchair-bound.

Amended:
She underwent a six-hour operation to prevent the condition from making her non-ambulant.

Why?
This error has appeared in examples in previous columns so far, and has been explained too.  Avoid terms such as “wheelchair-bound” or “confined to a wheelchair”. Rather, say that a person “uses a wheelchair” or a “wheelchair user”. But since the article is describing how a model underwent an operation to treat her severe spinal disorder so that she can continue to walk, the term “non-ambulant” would be more appropriate.

*****

BBC News, 6 October 2015
Has America already had a female president?

Original:
As well as tending to her wheelchair-bound husband and campaigning on his behalf, Eleanor also pursued her own interests.

Amended:
As well as tending to her wheelchair-user husband and campaigning on his behalf, Eleanor also pursued her own interests.

Why?
As above.

DPA emailed the editors at BCC News regarding this article and  received a reply from them stating that their writers follow a set of guidelines dealing specifically with how to respectfully address persons with disabilities. While it is puzzling how those terms make it through the editing process, DPA was glad that the editors have admitted their mistake, sharing with us their house style and amending the article.

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