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Watch your language – make it inclusive

Qushiba La Fleur, Executive Officer of the T&T Association for the Hearing Impaired (from left) and Ian Dhanoolal, present a token to Natasha Barrow, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services. Photo courtesy MSDFS.

By Kaelanne Jordan,

In commemoration of the International Day of Sign Language celebrated globally September 23, the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services (MSDFS) hosted a media clinic and sensitisation session September 21 at the Government Campus Auditorium, Queen and Richmond Streets, Port of Spain. The theme was With Sign Language Everyone is Included.

The purpose of the half-day session was to bring awareness to media and communication practitioners, on the rights of persons with disabilities; to assist in promoting inclusion, accessibility and integration of the deaf community into mainstream society.

In opening remarks, Natasha Barrow, permanent secretary, MSDFS spoke about the Green Paper on the Draft National Policy on Persons with Disabilities recently laid in the Parliament which underscores equality, respect, accessibility and liberty without discrimination.

“In our ministry we take issues related to persons with disabilities very seriously and it is very dear to our heart. We view this particular community as one of critical interest that requires our utmost attention and resources,” she said.

Also adding to the discourse, Dennis Williams, deputy permanent secretary, MSDFS said the Ministry is responsible for receiving feedback as well as monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the national policy.

He also highlighted that the “main beneficiaries” of the successful implementation of the Policy were persons with disabilities and their families. The Policy incorporates articles in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that T&T ratified June 2015.

He shared that the Policy consisted of 20 major areas including information and communication, public awareness, access to built environment, public transport, education and training, work and employment, technical aids and equipment, housing and disaster management.

On the issue of public awareness, the Ministry believes the media as the main target audience are seen as a catalyst for change. It hoped media practitioners will assist in creating and disseminating the narrative of inclusion through use of precise written and oral language when communicating with and reporting on issues related to the deaf.

During the session, attendees were reminded of the importance of People-First Language—language which emphasises the person, not the disability. It is an objective way of acknowledging, communicating and reporting on disabilities as it eliminates generalisation and stereotypes, by focusing on the person rather than the disability.

Persons with a disability (The) Handicapped, disabled person, differently able, disabled, invalid
A person with a psychiatric or psychosocial disability Insane, lunatic, maniac, mental patient, psychotic, crack, crazy
A person with a cognitive or an intellectual disability mentally retarded, feeble minded, moron
People without disability Normal, able bodied
A person with  a physical disability Physically challenged, broko


Person/student/child with ADHD or ADD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder) Hyper or lazy


Persons with a brain injury of persons with a traumatic brain injury Brain damaged
Use child/ person on the Autism Spectrum Autistic
Person with a learning disability Slow learner, dunce or retarded
Wheelchair user Wheelchair bound or confined to wheelchair
The community of persons with disabilities The disable community, differently abled community,
The community of persons who are Deaf (or any other disability) The community of disabled persons.
Persons with visual impairment Blind, half blind, coki-eye or partially sighted/blind