Person First language guidelines
As a member of the media, you play a hugely important role in how society views a person with Down syndrome.
We promote the use of Person First language at all times. To use person first language, simply say the person’s name or use a pronoun first, follow it with the appropriate verb, and then state the name of the disability. When referring to an individual, always describe them as a person with Down syndrome. The correct terminology is capital “D” for Down and small “s” for syndrome e.g. Joe Bloggs is a person with Down syndrome.
References to “a Downs” / “Down syndrome person” are no longer in use. Using person first language shifts our focus from the disability to the person who has dignity, feelings and rights. This subtle but powerful language shift helps us view people with disabilities as capable and deserving of respect.
Press articles, a photograph, a TV interview….they have the power to either breakdown or reinforce negative stereotypes.
When talking or writing about Down syndrome, please check out the following Dos and Don’ts:
Please do not say
A Downs person / baby/child
Suffers from or is a victim of Down syndrome
Downs (as an abbreviation)
Person/baby/child with Down syndrome or who has Down syndrome
Has Down syndrome
Learning disability / intellectual disability
Condition OR genetic condition
DS (as an abbreviation if necessary)
Advice for interviews
If you are planning to interview someone with Down syndrome, the following tips might be helpful:
– Prepare the person by giving them questions or topics in writing a few days ahead of the interview.
– If possible, do the interview in person. (Otherwise video chat is better than phone conversation.)
– Reduce or eliminate background noise if possible. Many people with Down syndrome have hearing issues and background noise makes listening and processing more difficult.
– Allow some time to get to know the person.
– Use short sentences, and count to 10 after talking to allow the person time to think and respond.
– Be aware that abstract language and questions about time may be particularly difficult.
– Open questions will usually give you more information than closed questions, so: ‘can you tell me about your job?’ is better than: ‘do you like your job?’
– Don’t underestimate the person, and especially don’t treat an adult like a child.
– When talking about people with Down syndrome use person-first language. Don’t talk about a ‘Down syndrome child or adult’. Instead use ‘person with down syndrome’.