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Last updateThu, 27 Jul 2017 12am

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    Tuesday, July 25, 2017-8:34:50A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Guam to promote sensitive terminology for people with disabilities

HAGÅTÑA — You can’t say “handicapped” anymore, according to Benito Servino, director of the Guam Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities. “It is derogatory, very demeaning and undignified.”

The word “handicapped” has been retired into a single-letter reference — the “H-word” — in the company of many other unspeakable words that have changed their meanings and been purged from the mainstream language.

“Even the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t use this word anymore,” Servino said.

Servino said raising awareness about the use of proper terminology is part of the campaign to promote more respectful attitudes toward people with disabilities.

On Guam, there are no more “handicapped parking,” Servino said. “It’s now called ‘accessible parking.’ Parking signs don’t have the word ‘handicapped’ anymore.”

“The word ‘handicapped’ doesn’t exist in any laws anymore. “What used to be the Handicapped Children Act is now known as ‘Individuals with Disabilities Act,’” Servino said.

The word “handicap” was coined from the phrase “cap in hand,” whose origin can be traced back to the war period when severely wounded soldiers found themselves unemployable, Servino said. “They couldn’t walk. They either used crutches or sat in a wheelchair. What they ended up doing was taking their caps in their hands and start begging for money.”

One way to acknowledge people with disabilities, Servino said, is to use the “people-first” language. “Instead of saying blind person, for example, say ‘person who is blind,” Servino said. “The focus is on the person and not the disabilities.”

On July 26, Guam will join the rest of the nation in commemorating the 27th anniversary of ADA.

ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush to ensure the civil rights of people with disabilities. This legislation established a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

The ADA seeks to expand opportunities for Americans with disabilities by reducing barriers and changing perceptions, and increasing full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.”

Although the ADA is now close to three decades old, Servino said there remain many obstacles that impede full compliance with the law.

“This is due to a lack of education about the ADA. Because the law requires accessibility of facilities, people think it is a building code. It is not a building code; it is a civil rights law,” Servino said.

The Guam Department of Integrated Services is spearheading a month-long celebration with a host of activities that seek to educate the public about their roles in making ADA successful.