5 Ways Employers Can Use People First Language

A happy, blonde woman in a wheelchair leading a meeting

People First Language refers to an objective and respectful way to speak about individuals with disabilities by emphasizing the person rather than the disability. A primary example includes saying “people with disabilities” rather than saying “the disabled” or “the handicapped.” By speaking and writing about the person before the disability, People First Language helps create a culture of inclusion. Employers using People First Language in the workplace can help foster a culture of respect that supports the recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce as well as a valuable customer base.

5 Ways Employers Can Use People First Language in the Workplace

  1. Verbally: Use People First Language when communicating verbally with employees and customers.
  2. Orientation: Include information about People First Language during new employee orientation.
  3. Signage: Ensure signage and other posted materials around the workplace include People First Language.
  4. Communications: Incorporate People First Language in internal and external digital communications.
  5. Meetings: Remind employees about People First Language during staff meetings.

People with disabilities are an underutilized and untapped segment of the workforce. Approximately 1.6 million Texans who are working age have a disability, and roughly a quarter have a bachelor’s degree or higher.1 However, only about half of people who happen to have a disability are employed.2 Did you know that 33 percent of hiring managers and executives reported that employees with disabilities stay in their jobs longer?3 And, employees with disabilities are rated by supervisors as being equally or more productive than coworkers and as achieving equal or better overall job performance.4 So how can employers tap into this large, skilled talent pool? One way is by creating a culture of inclusion by using People First Language as shown in this chart.

Say This in the Workplace Don’t Say This in the Workplace
Accessible parking, bathrooms, etc. Handicapped parking, bathrooms, etc.
Person who uses a wheelchair or a mobility chair Confined to a wheelchair; wheelchair bound
People who are blind or visually impaired The blind
Person with a learning disability Learning disabled

The Texas HireAbility campaign raises awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and highlights the contributions of people with disabilities in the workforce. The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities helps people with developmental disabilities achieve their potential for independence, productivity and integration into their communities. 1 U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-Year Estimates. www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/ 2 U.S. Census Bureau, 2014 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-Year Estimates. www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/ 3 K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability Collection, Leveling the Playing Field: Attracting, Engaging, and Advancing People with Disabilities. (2013). www.digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/edicollect/1292/ 4 Center for Workforce Preparation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Disability: Dispelling the Myths – How People with Disabilities Can Meet Employer Needs. www.ohioemploymentfirst.org/up_doc/Disability_Business_Case.pdf