CLTB Foundation

Embracing Inclusive Language and Promoting Respect for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Two girls looking at a computer and laughing
Did you know that in a recent survey from Statista in Canada, more than 70% of individuals aged 19 and older with disabilities reported encountering obstacles related to communication? This alarming revelation underscores the pressing need for a collective effort to reshape our language, eliminate communication barriers, and cultivate an environment of respect and inclusivity.

In a world striving for inclusivity and acceptance, our words carry immense power. The way we communicate not only reflects our values but also shapes our understanding of those around us. When it comes to discussing intellectual disabilities, the importance of using inclusive language cannot be overstated. At the Community Living Thunder Bay Foundation, our commitment to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities extends beyond funding. We recognize the significance of choosing our words carefully and respectfully, fostering an environment where every person feels valued and understood.

The Power of Inclusive Language 

Inclusive language goes beyond mere vocabulary – it’s about acknowledging the inherent worth of each individual and promoting respect for their experiences. Words have the ability to either uplift or marginalize, and when discussing intellectual disabilities, this distinction is especially crucial. By choosing words that are free from stereotypes, biases, and derogatory connotations, we can create a society that embraces diversity and fosters empathy. 

Guidelines for Inclusive Communication 
  • Put the Person First: When referring to people with developmental disabilities, place the person before their disability. For example, say “person with an intellectual disability” rather than “intellectually disabled person.” This simple shift highlights their identity beyond their condition. 
  • Use Person-Centered Language: Use language that emphasizes the individual’s strengths, abilities, and potential. Instead of focusing on limitations, focus on their unique qualities. For instance, say “an individual with unique abilities” rather than “a person with limitations.” 
  • Avoid Negative Terminology: Steer clear of outdated or negative terms that perpetuate stereotypes. Terms like “retard” or “mentally challenged” are hurtful and stigmatizing. Instead, opt for more neutral and respectful language. 
  • Be Specific: If relevant, use specific terminology to describe the nature of developmental disability. However, ensure that you are using accurate and respectful terms. For instance, use “Down syndrome” rather than a vague or derogatory term. 
  • Ask and Respect: If you’re unsure about the terminology to use when addressing someone’s condition, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them or their family members for guidance. Always respect their preferences. 
  • Highlight Abilities: Emphasize what people can do, rather than what they cannot. Celebrate their achievements and contributions to the community. 

Our Commitment to Inclusive Language 

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