Disability 101


Before I get into more disability concepts, it’s important to address language about disability. The preferred language right now is a combination of identity first and person first language. People in the disability community also use crip.

Identity-first language**: “Disabled people” as opposed to “people with disabilities” positions disability as an identity category. For disabled people, having their disability(ies) as an aspect of their person describes membership within a wider cultural group, as well as an aspect of their individual body and mind that refuses to be “fixed,” “dealt with” or effaced. To understand disability as an inherent part of an individual’s identity emphasizes that the disability plays a role in who the person is, and reinforces disability as a positive cultural identifier.

Person-first language**: “Person with quadriplegia” as opposed to “quadriplegic person” places emphasis on the person instead of on the disability. (For more, see “Identity-first Language”)

Crip: coming from the derogatory term “crippled,” and the way that metaphors about disabilities are used in derogatory fashion, ‘crip’ turns the term back on itself as a way to acknowledge the history, movement and culture behind disability rights and recognition

Disability pronouns: Similar to gender pronouns, disability pronouns are personal pronouns referring to one’s preferred self-label e.g. chair-user, neurodivergent, spooner, etc. In a world where people with disabilities can be socially invisible, the ability to identify someone’s preferred disability pronouns can avoid misidentifying disabled folks

**: It is important to note that whether a person with a disability prefers people-first or identity-first language is NOT universal. If you are unsure as to whether you should use people-first or identity-first language in order to be respectful, the best thing to do is to ask people themselves.” (Source)

At UC Berkeley, a lot of people use identity-first language, though some prefer person-first. Identify-first language is more common by the ADA Generation who grew up with disability laws on the books and starting to be implemented. 

Similar to crip, there are people in the disability community that identify as sick, insane, and mad. For more on the power of reclaiming words: https://www.cripriot.com/post/disabled-insane-crip-the-power-of-reclamation 

For more on Mad Pride, visit: https://blog.oup.com/2019/06/mad-pride-end-mental-illness/ 

For more terminology on disability concepts, visit: https://cdsc.umn.edu/cds/terms