An Open Letter to Writers and Publishers

As an avid reader, I’ve dabbled in many genres. I’m not going to name and shame here, but I’ve noticed something that is common to them all: the representation of people with disabilities.

I have worked closely with children with multiple and severe disabilities, and I can truthfully say that they are some of the most amazing people I know. Once I get to know each one of them, their personality begins to shine through and I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to develop friendships with them.

Through this, I’ve become quite conscious of how I talk about people. The thing is, we all have things we can do better than others. We all have things that other people can do better than we can. We all have things we love to do. We all have things we loathe. Really, we’re not all that different from one another; we just have different abilities.

The same goes for people with disabilities, and I believe that’s something we all need to remember. It doesn’t matter if someone looks or acts or thinks differently to you, because we are not our disabilities.

In many books that I’ve read where a character has any sort of disability, the problem lies in how they are referred to. Her autistic brother. The disabled child. She has special needs. These people are more than that! They are not their disability. They have personalities and passions. They deserve the respect of being recognised like you or me.

What writers, publishers, editors and everyone need to be conscious of is the effect their words might have. People-first language puts the person before the diagnosis. Her brother has autism. The child has a disability. She needs …

It’s easy, and it just adds respect for everyone.

About Niav

Niav wrote for the Mostly Books blog from 2013 to 2015. She grew up loving books, and will read just about anything. Niav has been writing short stories (and occasionally poetry) for years, as well as playing soccer, rock climbing, and volunteering on camps for kids with disabilities in her spare time.

3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Writers and Publishers

  1. Well said Niav. This is such an easily solved problem that has been occurring for years! I hope that writer’s, publishers and readers alike will take what you have said on board.

  2. Hear hear! If you’d like to read a book that tackles this issue really well, get a hold of Alex Shearer’s “This is the Life”.

    1. Thanks Annie! I’ll definitely check it out. ‘Far From The Tree’ by Andrew Solomon has also been recommended to me.

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