Communications and Media

Inclusive Language

OCALI’s Commitment to Inclusive Language

OCALI works hard to create an inclusive culture. We understand that people find strength in their identity, so we may use person-first language, identity-first language, or a combination of the two at different times, based on the person or audience. By having respect for the different perspectives that empower the people we serve, we promote greater access and understanding to make peoples’ lives better and to inspire change in our communities.

In 2023, we made the organizational decision to use a mix of both person-first and identity-first language -- knowing that things can and will change. As we continue to learn more we will adjust as needed, and we welcome dialogue and feedback as we evolve our language over time.

What is Person-first and Identity-first Language?

Person-first language emphasizes the person before the identity or disability, such as person who is deaf or child with autism. Identity-first language puts the identity or disability first in the description, as in deaf person or autistic person, recognizing the culture or community.

How Does this Work with Different Preferences?

When discussing autism with an audience of family/caregivers, educators or clinicians, OCALI will use person-first language.

  • E.g. child with autism, person with ASD.

When discussing autism with an audience of self-advocates, OCALI will use identity-first language.

  • E.g. Autistic women, Autistic students, Autistic patient (*avoid using Autism Spectrum Disorder and use autism or ASD instead).

Another consideration is capitalization. It is most common to capitalize the “A” on “Autistic person” and “Autistic women” and not to capitalize “person with autism” and “woman with autism.” 

When speaking to a person who is blind/visually impaired, use person-first language. It is acceptable to say “person with low vision" first, then switch to a phrase like “blind people” after the initial person-first usage. The use of “has low vision,” “is blind,” or “legally blind” is acceptable.

When speaking to a person who is deaf/hard of hearing, use both person first and identity first interchangeably and make a note of the language variation at the beginning of a live or recorded presentation.

When speaking to a person with low-incidence disabilities, we use person-first language. For example, “student with an orthopedic impairment.”

Where Can I Learn More?

Our words matter and being aware and thoughtful about what we say and how we say it is important. We recognize that language changes and evolves over time, and we encourage continued discussion, feedback and exploration as we learn and grow together.

Here are some resources that we’ve utilized to help inform our perspective: