The Innovations Advocacy Council understands that it is not always easy to stop using words that have become industry standards, but through the commitment of the people who provide services, the family members, and the individuals in services, a cultural change can occur.
The Power of a Word
Words can hold great power and it is through our words that we can potentially hurt or demean others. The council has created some alternative word choices to use:
- Instead of using “consumer” or “client,” use “individuals with disabilities” or “people with disabilities,” or better yet, refer to our individuals simply as people and/or individuals.
- Instead of using the terminology “high-functioning/low-functioning,” try to explain the parameters of the situation. For example, instead of saying high-functioning, you could say that the person is independent in the community and requires minimal supports. Instead of saying low-functioning, you could say the individual requires additional assistance with daily living tasks.
- Above all else, we should never use the R-Word. While everyone understands that this is an official diagnosis, there are other ways in which to express the diagnosis such as developmental disability or intellectual disability, and plain and simple, this word is offensive regardless if it is used clinically or not.