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Promote Respectful Language

Negative, disempowering language can hurt the feelings and self-worth of people on the spectrum and their families and friends.  Even people who may have difficulty expressing themselves often can understand receptively what is said around and about them--it is a false assumption that autistic people "don't understand" when called a "retard," a "victim," or a "burden."  These words indeed cause "suffering."

The National Center on Disability and Journalism gives the following guideline regarding the use of pity oriented language:

"Afflicted with (also see 'stricken with,' 'suffers from,' 'victim of') These terms come with the assumption that a person with a disability is in fact suffering or living a reduced quality of life. Instead, use neutral language when describing a person who has a disability. Not every person with a disability 'suffers,' is a 'victim' or 'stricken.' Instead simply state the facts about the nature of the person's disability."

One of the biggest--and easiest!--ways you can make a difference in the lives of autistic people right now is to pledge to promote respectful language to us, about us, and around us.  Avoid pity-oriented terms, don't use "the R-word" (retard), and always ask yourself: "How would I feel if someone used this word about me?" before speaking or writing about autism.  And encourage others to do the same!


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