Nearly 40% of Australians have used an offensive term to describe someone living with a disability and most of the time it’s because we don’t know the appropriate language to use.
Developing Australian Communities (DAC) Co-founder and Disability Sector Specialist River Night says that is why we need to think before we speak.
While we might not mean to use language in an offensive way, we need to change the way we value people and that means changing the language we use to address them.
River’s comments were aired on a Channel 7 News segment this week which focussed on recent DAC research showing 36% of Australians use offensive terms when referring to people with disabilities (that’s one-third of the population).
It also revealed 34% of us are not confident or comfortable using the politically correct terminology when addressing or talking to someone with a disability.
The news segment shone the light on an inspiring Sunshine Coast woman who is determined to break down the barriers and help stop people being wary around people with disabilities.
Bianca Saez is a motivational speaker and has been on the receiving end of offensive, cruel and ignorant comments about her Tourette Syndrome, which says they are always hurtful.
“I’ve been called an escaped mental patient by really awful people, and then there are people that think I am so disabled that I can’t function …,” she said
And that, according to River, is the bottom line:
“What we are seeing is people being unsure what to say, treading on eggshells and people not being able to talk to people as people,” he said.
River says just think before you speak and learn the appropriate terms and see and treat people with disabilities as just people.
The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations has an online language guide https://www.afdo.org.au/news/language-guide/ as an excellent reference for those of us unsure how to use appropriate language when speaking to someone with a disability or just don’t know what to say.
Bianca has made it her mission to educate us all. She wants everyone to know she needs to be treated and spoken to like you would speak to anyone and everyone else.
She has her own website https://bwithtourettes.com.au/
where she helps us understand the difficulties of living with Tourette’s and answer questions but also aims to educate people on engaging with and understanding people living with a disability.
She makes her own YouTube videos and videos on her website https://bwithtourettes.com.au/videos-gallery/ to share her everyday obstacles and how she overcomes them, and also attends motivational events.
“People see me as I can’t function whereas I can function - I can do a lot of things,” Bianca says.
Just talk to her.
You can read about her journey to today here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IDb-KcDDH0