April 13, 2006

DC Seeks Legal Disability Language Change

The Washington Post reports a DC lawmaker has introduced two bills promoting respectful language in laws putting people first and their disabilities second. Guess what paper Tiger Woods doesn't read?

A story in the March 30 Washington Post details an effort by D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) to remove terms like "crippled" and "feebleminded" from DC Code.

Four states have adopted similar legislation, starting with Pennsylvania in 1992, with little or no opposition.

A quick review reveals that DC's city codes are long overdue for an overhaul.

According to the Post:

The term "lunatic" appears in the D.C. Code 29 times and that the term "idiot" is used 13 times.

The first of Gray's bills would require the use of "people first" language in new D.C. laws, regulations and publications. This would mean that sentences would be constructed to refer to individuals "with disabilities" or "who have disabilities." Under his measures, it would be considered insensitive and disrespectful for District laws and publications to refer to such individuals as "the disabled."

Similarly, the correct terminology for someone in a wheelchair would be a person "who uses" or "who needs" a wheelchair or other assistance.

Existing regulations and publications in use would need to be updated within six months of the bill's passage.

In the second bill, language considered offensive would be barred from new and revised city laws, regulations and publications. The bill would advise lawmakers to avoid such terms as "afflicted," "crippled," "handicapped," "imbecile," "insane," "moron" and "wheelchair bound" when referring to people with disabilities and would bar such words in future laws, regulations and publications.

No word yet regarding the word "spaz" ...

What do you think, folks? In light of the Tiger Woods affair, should we press lawmakers to regulate language?

If so, how do we so without becoming recipients of a possible "politically correct" backlash?

Posted by Lawrence Carter-Long

Posted on April 13, 2006