Putting the person first


Chantele Fox, Editor-in-Chief

Putting the person first. You may have heard this in passing or might be wondering what that means. It means that in today’s society, it’s almost too easy to look past the person in front of us and cast judgment on them. Almost instinctively we place them into categories or put labels on them according to what the world has termed “acceptable” or “the norm.” We do this without failure to see the long-term impact it has on a person. People deserve to be treated as an individual. They deserve to be seen as a person.
They deserve to be put first. It’s so heartbreaking to see how the world is treating one another. Rather than speaking to each other with mutual respect, compassion and empathy. You would think these would be simple things, yet there is so much hurt, turmoil and lack of soul in the world than unfortunately, this needs to be mentioned.
You might be thinking, “What in the world is she talking about?” If I haven’t lost you, that’s great – keep reading.
While the Person First philosophy can apply to all people, it more specifically refers to focusing on the person rather than the disability. This is reflected through our actions and words when we interact with a person who has a disability. If you were to think about how you speak, do you use phrases or terms such as “a disabled person,” “autistic child,” “handicap parking” or “wheelchair bound?” If you do, these are terms that are putting the disability before the person. Instead you should say “a person with a disability,” “a child with autism,” “accessible parking” or “uses a wheelchair.”
I will be the first to admit that I might always be so conscientious about how I speak. I recently took a self-assessment after reading an article titled, “How Are Your Person First Skills?” which reflected that I was a conscientious user; however, I feel as though I can do better.
In that same article, there was reference The Courage Center which provided suggestions during interactions with those who have a disability. They state that you should always be yourself and you should treat a person with a disability the way you would want to be treated. You should always speak to the person with the disability and not the person who is with them. Furthermore, it was stated that you should never walk behind someone using a wheelchair and begin to push them without permission.
It might seem like something small to those of us who do not live with disabilities, but to those who do – this is a sign of respect. It shows them that you see them as a person and that you do not look at them as someone who has disabilities or limitations.
Remember, one small act of kindness will lead to another.