Use appropriate language to reduce stigma

Stephani Wolfe

I am writing in response to a story that ran earlier this month titled “Students with disabilities seek better accommodations from UT.” Overall I thought the article was very well done. It shared student concerns while also reflecting the work that the University is doing to try and meet students’ needs and uphold the Americans with Disabilities Act.

With that said, I would like to offer some constructive feedback about best use of language when talking about people with disabilities and the disability community. The article mentioned “students who are suffering from disabilities.” There is a strongly held belief in the disability community that a disability is not something that individuals are afflicted with but rather a difference and, from that perspective, something that makes them unique and contributes to the diversity on campus.

I would suggest that in the future time be taken to ensure that language is used to reduce stigma. The sentence could have read “students who have disabilities” and the facts of the story would have been unchanged.

Stephani Wolfe
Executive director, Services for Students with Disabilities