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Access Center guides disability-identity conversations

Join the discussion by attending important events today and Wednesday.

By Melissa Cermak, Ph.D.

February 23, 2021

Access Center.Which is correct terminology: “a person with a disability” or “a disabled person”? Person-first and identity-first have been the two most common ways of referencing disability as an identity. 

Person-first language has been promoted as the preferable way to reference disability identity. For example, the Access Center at Metropolitan State University of Denver provides support for students with disabilities. The argument has been that person-first language allows us to see or interact with the person first, rather than seeing the disability first. 

On the other hand, some people have argued that person-first language has resulted in further distancing people from disability as an identity and reinforces the stigmatization of disability. This has led some people to call for a movement to #SaytheWord (e.g., “disability”).

The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) issued a statement Jan. 19 on language and how it demonstrates professional values and beliefs about disability. In a major change, the AHEAD Statement on Language highlighted that AHEAD will adopt “identity-first language across all communication, information and materials.” The statement recognizes that there is still space for individuals to identify in the way they choose but signals it was time to embrace new thinking about disability. AHEAD argues that identity-first language challenges the negative stigma of disability and brings attention to the role that inaccessible and oppressive systems, structures and environments can have in exacerbating disability. 

The Access Center is committed to promoting disability identity and awareness and will host virtual discussions that are open to MSU Denver students, faculty and staff.

Attend Disability Identity 101

Join the Access Center for an interactive discussion on disability identity where participants will explore various models of disability and how each model can shape the treatment, perception and identity development of individuals with disabilities in society. Students, staff and faculty are invited to join us for one or both dates. For more information on Access Center events and links to the Teams meetings, please visit:

Save the date for Disability in the Media

  • March 17, 1-2 p.m.
  • March 30, 1-2 p.m.

We hope you can join in some lively and thoughtful dialogue. Please check out the Access Center’s event calendar.  

For more information on this topic, check out the following links:

Topics: Access, Events, Excellence, Student Success

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