"People First" language emphasizes the person, not the disability.
Having a disability is only one aspect of a person, and every person wants to be recognized for all the qualities and attributes he may possess rather than be summarized by a word or phrase that refers only to his disability. "People First" language shows respect for the person and acknowledges that people with disabilities have strengths, too. Consequently, "People First" language doesn't mention the person's disability unless it is relevant to the situation.
Not "People First" Language
"I work with the disabled."
"She's a diabetic."
"He's confined to a wheelchair."
"There's my autistic neighbor."
"People First" Language
"I work with people who have disabilities.
"She has diabetes."
"He uses a wheelchair."
"There's my next-door neighbor."
The following are four excellent documents on "People First" language that you may wish to read:
What Is People First Language (an excellent discussion of the rationale behind “People First” language by The Arc)
People First: A Guide for Using People First Language (adapted from a brochure produced by the West Virginia Developmental Disabilities Council and the West Virginia Division of Developmental Disabilities)
- Describing People with Disabilities/People First Language(a document produced by the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities)
- People First Language: A Guide for Young People (a brochure created by the Utah Developmental Disabilities Council)