5 Essential Tips on How to Shut Down Offensive Labels

R-word, Labels

A War of Words: “Politically Correct” vs “Plain Speaking”

Political Correction for the Politically Incorrect Labels

When it comes to the community of persons with disabilities and special needs, labels are a hot topic. We use certain words to describe individuals or ourselves. Unfortunately, words have the power to hurt feelings and limit expectations. We’d rather those words NOT be used to label us. On the other hand, we have a number of individuals who are opposed to using “politically correct” language. They feel they should be able to use whatever words they so choose without retribution. People draw a line in the sand and stop listening to one another. Let’s dive in and see why this is and how we can start a conversation, rather than a war of words.

Unfortunately, the battle lines are drawn and the sides have been established. On one side, we have those who favor “politically correct” language and on the other, we have those who favor “plain speak.” Many people are fed up with having to police their words and feel like, no matter what they say, they will inevitably offend someone. They don’t understand why people have such “thin skins.” In response, these “plain speakers” are condemned for their choice of words. Attacks such as these put people on the defensive and shut down any opportunity for anyone to walk away the interaction feeling like there was a positive outcome.

How do we change this? How can we turn this negative into a positive? We have a few ideas.

Most People are Good People… No, really.

The first step towards making everyone more aware that they should not be using offensive language, is by first accepting that most people, are good people. They don’t understand how hurtful this language is to people with disabilities. Granted, there are individuals who DO use these words callously or to be purposely hurtful. Changing THESE people is not something we can cover in this post, better to move on and focus on what we can control, rather than what we cannot. If you ever do encounter someone who you feel is being purposely hurtful, do your best to ignore them or report their actions to someone who will help separate you from the offensive individual.

TIP 1 Avoid the high-horse.

Righteous indignation feels good. When you are so convinced that you are in the right and that whoever you are speaking to is wrong, it can feel sooooo satisfying to rub it in their faces. The problem is that this is not the most effective method to affect change. If someone has said something offensive and you feel morally obligated to address it, take a moment and remind yourself that most people are good people. Approach the situation with humility, understanding that, at some point, we’ve all said silly things without thinking. Try to remember how we were treated in those moments and how we wish we had been treated. This is your opportunity to change someone’s mind and make a difference, don’t throw it away just to feel superior.

TIP 2 Breathe.Keep Calm

Before you say anything, take a deep breath and try to relax. You have faced ignorance and are now understandably upset. The problem is, you may lash out and end up saying something that won’t be very constructive. The last thing you want is to turn a conversation into a shouting match. Be true to your emotions, but don’t let them get the best of you.

TIP 3 Isolate When Possible

People grow incredibly defensive when confronted in a group setting. They feel that if they do not retaliate to a perceived attack on their character, they will end up looking weak. Their response will be unpredictable and uncontrollable. Better to ask if you can speak with the individual privately, this can help avoid the awkwardness of calling someone out in public.

TIP 4 Educate and Express

Take the time to explain to the individual that the word they used hurt your feelings and that you’d prefer they wouldn’t use it in your presence. Afterward, be sure to let them know that you know they weren’t using it to be hurtful and that you don’t think less of them. Follow it up with letting them know why that word disturbs you. You could tell them a personal story or even draw a parallel with other words that are offensive.

TIP 5 Gratitude

Only use this tip if you feel the person has taken the time to listen to you and empathized with your point of view. If you feel you’ve gotten through to this individual, thank them for their patience and understanding. This is the cherry on top of the education cupcake. Both parties walk away with a feeling of positivity and surety that the matter is closed. When we leave an encounter with such a positive ending, it encourages long-lasting changes in a person’s behavior.

We hope these tips come in handy when addressing these issues in the future. It’s crucial to open up a dialogue if you want to see things change for the better. If all goes well, you will have made a significant victory in the war of words in which both sides win.


The Truth about Medicaid in New Jersey

No Medicaid Cuts

As this article is being written, the Senate Republicans are drafting a bill behind closed doors that could repeal The Affordable Care Act and replace it with the American Healthcare Act. The bill, as it currently stands after being passed through the House, would convert the current Medicaid expansion into “block grants,” shifting program costs over to the states. This provision has the potential to dramatically

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Where Does Your NJ Candidate Stand on Disability Issues?

New Jersey Governor

The New Jersey gubernatorial race is in full swing and voting will take place this November 7th. We reached out to all the current candidates (as of May  12, 2017) to find out their stances on issues that are important to people with disabilities and special needs and their families, living in New Jersey. We wanted to share these statements with you, our readers, to ensure you know each candidate’s stance on the issues facing the disability community.

With the federal government proposing sweeping changes to public policies that could have a direct impact on state services for people with disabilities and special needs, it has never been more important to elect a strong leader for New Jersey. Easterseals has advocated for and provided services to people with disabilities and their families for nearly 100 years, helping them to live, learn, work, and play in their communities. That’s why we have gathered these statements for your careful review, as they will help you make an informed decision when entering the voting booth this November.

Click on the photos of your candidate to read the statement they provided. (DISCLAIMER: This does not represent every NJ gubernatorial candidate currently running, as not all gave statements in response to our call.)

Candidates are presented in alphabetical order as not to show any preferential treatment towards any one candidate.

Bill Brennan NJ Governor Candidate
Bill Brennan (D)

Jim Johnson governor candidate
Jim Johnson (D)
Raymond Lesniak Governor NJ
Raymond Lesniak (D)
Phil Murphy Governor Candidate
Phil Murphy (D)
Steven Rogers NJ governor candidate
Steven Rogers (R)
Joseph Rudy Rullo governor candidate
Joseph Rudy Rullo (R)
Hirsh Signh NJ Governor candidate
Hirsh Singh (R)
John Wisniewski governor candidate
John Wisniewski (D)

Mark Zinna governor candidate
Mark Zinna (D)


A Big Win for Students With Disabilities at the Supreme Court!

Supreme Court Building IEP

Our latest blog topic comes to us from Hinkle, Fingles, Prior, & Fischer, a Jersey-based law firm that represents people with disabilities and their families in the tri-state area. They detailed a landmark decision handed down by the Supreme Court that affects how Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) are deemed “appropriate.”

As IEP’s begin to be set, we want to make sure you stay up-to-date on all the important issues so you’re able to effectively advocate for your loved ones.

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How Much Do You Really Know Developmental Disability?

Developmental disability

A Time to Learn

DD awareness monthIn honor of Developmental Disability Awareness Month, we will be exploring what exactly “developmental disability” is. How is it defined? What challenges does it pose? And why do we have the term in the first place? This is the first part of our ongoing series of blog posts that will be diving a bit deeper on individual types and classifications of disabilities. We hope these posts will serve

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On Art & Disability

Artist with disability sells artwork

The art world has a long history of people with disabilities excelling in extraordinary ways, such as Beethoven (hearing impaired), Leonardo da Vinci (dyslexic), Van Gogh (mentally ill), and Matisse (visually impaired). Their accomplishments have earned them a permanent place in our history books. Their disabilities presented them with certain challenges in their daily experience and

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The Americans With Disabilities Act: 26 Years of Progress

ADA celebrates 26th year anniversary

Imagine a World Without Stairs

Think about all the things in this world that you would no longer be able to access. Your favorite restaurant? Doctor’s office? Your own home? How would this make you feel?

If you were a person with a disability living in the U.S. before the 1990’s, this feeling was (and may still be) a familiar one. The very architecture of society was structured in such a way that ignored the rights of Americans with disabilities.

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