Delaware passes “people first” language laws

A road sign with the word "Delaware" on it
News from Delaware

All new Delaware state laws, regulations and publications will include language respectful to people with disabilities under a new law signed by Governor Jack Markell on August 22.

“Words matter. They do have power. These bills ensure we emphasize people first and disabilities second when we use them in law,” said Governor Jack Markell in an article in the Newark Post. “People live with their disabilities. They should not be defined by them. The language used in our laws, codes and regulations to describe disabilities have not in the past reflected that fact. It will going forward.”

The change is the result of a nationwide movement to have people with disabilities identified first as individual people. For example, disabled people should be identified as people with disabilities and autistic people should be recognized as people with autism.

Also August 22, Markell signed bills into law requiring the state to include People First Language in its existing state code and recognizing October as “Disability History and Awareness Month.”

“Civil rights start with civil treatment of all people,” said Sen. David Sokola, D-Newark, who co-sponsored the legislation in the Senate. “Changing the way we word our laws may not seem like much, but it’s that kind of civil treatment that can help change people’s attitudes and start the process of recognizing people as our fellow human beings instead of walling.”

For more information on People First Language, see the web postings below.

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