July is Disability Pride Month, and we’re spotlighting strategies for reducing disability stigma—negative attitudes or beliefs about people with disabilities.
People with disabilities are often stigmatized in many ways, including social avoidance, stereotyping, and condescension. If someone has a disability, they may be labeled as helpless or incapable of exercising autonomy, and people may pity them. They may be excluded from social events, and people may avoid eye contact and talking with them if they have a visible disability.
Together, we can help reduce disability stigma by:
- Learning from others about disabilities. People with disabilities have a wide-range of experiences, and we can broaden our understanding when we listen to their stories.
- Avoiding assumptions about what someone with a disability can or cannot do. People are affected by disabilities in different ways, and not every person’s experience with a disability is the same.
- Using person-first language to emphasize that a person is not a disability (e.g., “person who is deaf”). However, some people may prefer identity-first language (e.g., “deaf person”). If you’re unsure, a good rule is to use people-first language.
- Avoiding negative words — like “punishment”, “sad”, and “tragedy” — when discussing disability.
- Using age-appropriate language and making eye contact when talking to people with visible disabilities, even if a companion or interpreter is present.
“Common Barriers to Participation Experienced by People With Disabilities.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Sept. 2020, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/disability-barriers.html. Accessed 5 June 2023.
Fitzroy, Jenna. “The Stigma on People With Disabilities: What You Can Do to Reduce It.” Women’s Health Blog, Apr. 2019, www.womenshealthblog.org/the-stigma-on-people-with-disabilities-what-you-can-do-to-reduce-it.
“Guidelines for Writing About People With Disabilities.” ADA National Network, adata.org/factsheet/ADANN-writing. Accessed 5 June 2023.
NCALL Staff. “Destigmatizing Disability.” The National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life, 19 July 2021, www.ncall.us/2021/07/19/destigmatizing-disability. Accessed 5 June 2023.
University of Washington. (2016). Disability Stigma and Your Patients [Factsheet]. Aging Well with a Physical Disability Factsheet Series. Healthy Aging & Physical Disability RRTC, http://agerrtc.washington.edu.