Stop using the word ‘handicapped’ for people


On Nov. 19, 2015, I read an article on the front page of the Saipan Tribune that was titled “Man stabs his handicapped mom.”

As president of the Statewide Independent Living Council, I am disturbed that we still use this word to refer to people in the CNMI today.

The word “handicapped” has traditionally been used to refer to people with disabilities. Post-World War I and II, people who served during the war who lost limbs or were shell-shocked would sometimes be seen using their hat in their hand to ask for handouts. This practice led to the use of this word in America to mean people with disabilities. It was actually used in federal laws until 1990.

It was deemed inappropriate in 1990 because it degrades the value of a person. People-first language movement began then and pushed for dignity and respect for all people with disabilities. According to the movement, we should place the value of a human being before any disability. For example, a man with a disability, and not a disabled or handicapped man.

I am requesting the newspapers to adhere to the People-First Language Movement and stop using “handicapped’ to refer to our people with disabilities.

Thank you for your time and consideration with this important issue.

Emeterio Fitial
President, SILC

Contributing Author

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