language

NCDJ Releases Updated Disability Language Style Guide

The National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University has released an updated version of its disability language style guide in both English and Spanish for journalists and professionals who report or write about people living with disabilities.

The guide offers information and advice on nearly 100 commonly used words or terms — from “able-bodied” to “wheelchair-bound.”

Headquartered at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the NCDJ is a national organization that provides support and guidance to journalists and communicators as they cover people with disabilities.

For more than a decade, the NCDJ guide has been a go-to source for professionals around the world seeking to use language about disability that avoids the stereotypes frequently associated with disability.

“Language frames how we see people with disabilities, and our choices matter,” said Kristin Gilger, the center’s director and Reynolds Professor in Business Journalism at the Cronkite School. “What we’re trying to do is provide an authoritative, neutral source of guidance and information that balances the need for sensitivity and accuracy against the journalistic mandate for language that is clear and easily understood by a general audience.”

Gilger said disability can be a difficult topic to cover for journalists, many of whom are unfamiliar with current debates over language choices and what might be considered offensive. For example, there are fierce disagreements about the use of the word “disabled” itself and whether to use “people first” or “identity first” language. The latter has been particularly contentious within the disability community.

In the past, the NCDJ has encouraged the use of people-first language, such as, “a person who has Down syndrome” rather than “a Down syndrome person,” but the revised guide no longer suggests it as a default.

“Even with the caveat that this does not apply to all, we have heard from many people with disabilities who take issue with people-first language,” said Amy Silverman, a Phoenix-based journalist and author who led the effort to revise the guide. “For us, this really emphasizes the fact that no two people are the same — either with regard to disabilities or language preferences. And, so, we are suggesting that people double down to find out how people would like to be described.”

The guide also suggests being sensitive when using words like “disorder,” “impairment,” “abnormality” and “special” to describe the nature of a disability.

“But note that there is no universal agreement on the use of these terms — not even close,” Silverman said. “’Disorder’ is ubiquitous when it comes to medical references, and the same is true for “special” when used in ‘special education,’ so there may be times when it’s appropriate to use them. The word ‘condition’ is often a good substitute that avoids judgment.”

In addition to offering recommendations on language choices, the guide provides a brief background on each word or term and touches on instances in which disability organizations disagree on usage. It also notes whether the word or term is addressed in The Associated Press Stylebook, widely used by journalists around the world as a guide to writing. The AP recently expanded its disability language entries, in part with the guidance of the NCDJ.

The NCDJ was founded in 1998 in San Francisco as the Disability Media Project to raise awareness of how the news media cover people with disabilities. The organization was renamed in 2000 and moved to the Cronkite School in 2009. NCDJ’s disability style guide is available on the organization’s website or as a printable PDF. It is available in both English and Spanish.

NCDJ Board Member Becky Curran Kekula Discusses Facing the Fear of Inclusivity

NCDJ board member Becky Curran Kekula speaks with a TMJ-4 reporter on “The Morning Blend” about inclusive ways to discuss disability.

By “The Morning Blend” show on TMJ-4 Milwaukee

NCDJ board member Becky Curran Kekula appeared on this morning talk show to discuss tips for treating people with disabilities fairly and respectfully. Part of the discussion focused on the fact that since 70% of disabilities are invisible, many people are nervous to either admit they have a disability, or to speak about someone who may have a disability that isn’t immediately apparent.

Also featured are some of Becky’s favorite tips for working remotely — a particularly relevant topic in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Watch the full segment here: https://www.tmj4.com/shows/the-morning-blend/facing-the-fear-of-inclusivity

Learning to Unsay the R-Word

Amy Silverman on Changing the Way a Culture Speaks

Photo depicting a blank chalkboard with an eraser and piece of chalk on its ledge.

By Literary Hub

As we drove to her high school one morning not long ago, I asked my daughter Sophie what words she’d use to describe herself.

“Cute, funny, smart, hard working,” she says.

“Anything else?”

“Lovable.” Literary Hub

Sophie did not use the word retarded, though some people might. I’ve never heard her say it. She’s never heard me say it, either. I don’t use it. Anymore.

To be totally honest, I miss the word.

I imagine it’s a little like how a smoker feels once she’s quit. Relieved to be rid of cigarettes, disgusted that she ever used them. Healthy, now. A better person for it. But sometimes, there’s that sense that nothing else will ever deliver quite the same satisfaction. Years later, I still find myself craving the r-word.

I went cold turkey in 2003, the year Sophie, my second daughter, was born. In the recovery room post C-section, I forced my drugged eyes open long enough to ask my husband Ray, “What are you doing?” and closed them again when he told me he was measuring the placement of Sophie’s ears, a marker of Down syndrome.

Read Amy Silverman’s full essay here:https://lithub.com/learning-to-unsay-the-r-word/

How to Accurately and Inclusively Cover Mass Shootings

The image depicts a paper gun range shooting target with several bullet holes. (Image: Wikimedia)
The image depicts a paper gun range shooting target with several bullet holes. (Image: Wikimedia)

In response to the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) has released a guide to help journalists “accurately and inclusively cover mass shootings.”

A full section of the NAHJ guide is dedicated to helping journalists cover gun violence without stigmatizing mental illness, or implying that a shooter’s mental illness caused or contributed to the violence. Among other recommendations, the NAHJ guide tells journalists that it is “inexcusable to mention the mental health issues the alleged killer might have been dealing with in an attempt to dismantle the reasoning behind this crime against humanity.” Additionally, the guide acknowledges that traumatic stories like the shooting in El Paso can be painful to cover and reminds reporters that it is always okay to reach out for help.

Click here to access How to Accurately and Inclusively Cover Mass Shootings on the NAHJ website.

NCDJ Releases Disability Language Style Guide in Spanish

NCDJ NCDJ, National Center on Disability and Journalism, Disability Language Style Guide, Spanish
NCDJ Releases Disability Language Style Guide in Spanish

The National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University has released its popular disability language style guide in Spanish.

The NCDJ, which is headquartered at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, provides guidance and support for journalists and communications professionals as they write about and report on disability issues and people with disabilities.

The style guide was recently updated to contain nearly 200 words and terms commonly used when referring to people with disabilities.

“The guide is used around the world but until now has been available primarily in English,” said NCDJ Executive Director Kristin Gilger, the senior associate dean at the Cronkite School. “The new Spanish-language version will make it possible for us to reach far more people with advice on disability-related language choices.”

She said the guide is not prescriptive. Instead, recommendations are intended to help communications professionals avoid offensive language while also being clear and accurate.

The Spanish translation of the guide was made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which provides support for NCDJ programs and services.

In addition to the style guide, the center administers an annual contest recognizing the best reporting on disability in the country and provides training and resources for journalists, public relations professionals, educators and others concerned about how people with disability are portrayed.

Both the English and Spanish versions of the disability language style guide are available in downloadable format at https://ncdj.org/style-guide/.

4 key tips for reporting on and writing about people with disabilities

 

Image shows a hand holding onto the rim of a wheelchair.
(Photo: Pixabay ) “4 key tips for reporting on and writing about people with disabilities,” written by Chloe Reichel, published by Journalist’s Resource on June 26. Image: hand holding onto the rim of a wheelchair.

More than 1 in 4 people living in the United States has a mental or physical disability, according to a 2018 report from the Census Bureau, which collected the data in 2014.

Media reports, however, hardly reflect the fact that 27.2% — or 85.3 million people — nationwide are living with disabilities. Stories about people with disabilities often fall into two broad categories, says Kristin Gilger, who is director of the National Center on Disability and Journalism (NCDJ) and the associate dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

The first category is what Gilger calls “inspiration porn” — stories about people with disabilities throwing the winning pass for the high school football team or being named prom queen, for example. “It’s well-intentioned, but those stories also can be very exploitative and they are very limited in really getting to the heart of how people live and what they think and how they’re affected by what’s going on in our civic life,” she says.

The second category consists of crime stories, which sometimes mention mental illness — a narrow slice of the kind of coverage the subject deserves. “We still have some work to do in the range and sophistication of [mental illness] coverage,” Gilger says.

Gilger says the lack of disability coverage might stem from a lack of representation in newsrooms. “We haven’t done a very good job of hiring people particularly with physical disabilities, who might need some kind of accommodation in the workplace — people who use wheelchairs, for example, or have hearing or vision limitations or any number of other things,” Gilger notes. “If you don’t have those people in your newsroom, you’re not likely to do a very good job of understanding and pursuing stories that are relevant to those populations … If you’re not comfortable with the coverage area, you just don’t know enough about it, it’s not likely that you’re going to pursue it.”

Amy Silverman, a journalist and NCDJ board member who, in 2018, updated the center’s Disability Language Style Guide, echoes Gilger’s sentiment. “I think that disability is really intimidating to people,” she says.  “First of all, because they don’t want to say the wrong thing. And second, because it’s something uncomfortable to think about.”

To help journalists improve their coverage of people with disabilities, we’re sharing four key tips from Gilger and Silverman.

Read the article by  here.

 

NCDJ Director Kristin Gilger quoted in HuffPost article on disability discrimination in the workplace

How employers weed disabled people from their hiring pools
NCDJ Director Kristin Gilger discusses job description language in a recently published HuffPost article by Wendy Lu. The image shown above is a screenshot of Wendy Lu’s HuffPost piece with the headline “This Is How Employers Weed Out Disabled People From Their Hiring Pools.”

Job listings that discourage people with disabilities from applying are prevalent across professional industries, from journalism and news media to finance and higher education. Not only do these job descriptions discourage candidates with disabilities from applying to jobs for which they are qualified, but they also exacerbate the larger problem of people with disabilities being underemployed in full-time work.

Kristin Gilger, a senior associate dean at the Cronkite School and our director here at the NCDJ, is quoted in a recent HuffPost article discussing why these job descriptions are problematic and how they can be changed to attract a more diverse pool of candidates. The article was written by Wendy Lu, a journalist and disability rights advocate.

Click here to read Lu’s article on disability discrimination in the workplace.

ASU student explores how disability is talked about on Twitter

The Twitter hashtag #AblesAreWeird highlights the strange things that people do and say to people with disabilities. Image: text that says "AbledsAreWeird" appears against a solid blue background.
The Twitter hashtag #AbledsAreWeird highlights the strange things that people do and say to people with disabilities. Image: text that says “AbledsAreWeird” appears against a solid blue background.

Adam Schmuki, a linguistics graduate student at Arizona State University, studies the language and narratives people use on Twitter to refer to disability. A wheelchair user himself, Schmuki became interested in the subject earlier this year when he came across the hashtag #AbledsAreWeird. The hashtag gained popularity among Twitter’s disability community in late March as a way to normalize people with disabilities, who are often regarded by outsiders as “other.”

Click here to read more about Adam Schmuki’s research on language used to discuss disability on Twitter.

Curious to learn more about disability and language? Check out our disability language style guide, which is available in both English and Spanish.

Columbia Journalism Review highlights NCDJ disability language style guide

a screen shot of the article's headline on CJR.org.
“How some words don’t stand the test of time,” an article recently published in the Columbia Journalism Review, highlights the NCDJ disability language style guide. Image: a screen shot of the article’s headline on CJR.org.

Thanks for the shout out, Columbia Journalism Review! A recent CJR article about disability terminology mentions our disability language style guide as a resource for journalists and writers who cover disability issues. Click here to read the CJR article online.