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Disability Pronouns

Yeah, it’s a long introduction, but what a conversation starter !

Hi, my name is Sheri Byrne-Haber

  • my gender pronouns are she/her, and
  • my disability pronouns are disabled and determined person

When referring to personal pronouns, we mean that they are pronouns referring to a unique and individual person. Gender pronouns are well understood and widely used. So why not use disability pronouns?

Why Disability Pronouns are Important

It is the neuro-diverse community I see most often promoting the use of online disability pronouns. But, like gender pronouns, I think you will start seeing these more frequently.

  • There are people who want to OWN their autism because it is part of their identity. Their disability pronoun is “autistic”
  • There are people who have no issue identifying themselves as someone on the Asperger’s spectrum. Their disability pronoun might be “person with Asperger’s”, “person on the spectrum”, “person with ASD”, or the term “Aspie”
  • There are people who don’t want to use any variation of the words spectrum, Asperger’s, or autism because to them, it sounds too much like medical language and diagnosis. Their preferred disability pronoun might be neuro-diverse or ND. Neuro-diverse and ND is a broader category that includes disabilities outside of Autism/ASD including dyslexia / dysgrapha / dyscalculia, CAPD and ADHD amongst other neurological diagnosis.

Self-Labeling

I see Disability Pronouns not as the world wanting to label me, but me grabbing the opportunity to label myself and telling you what *I* want. In a world where people with disabilities can be socially invisible, the ability to tell people what label we want to use is exceptionally important. Disability pronouns are also a great way to see who is paying attention (i.e. using my requested pronouns) and who isn’t.

Avoid cultural misunderstandings

In the US we say “people with disabilities” in the EU and Asia they largely say “disabled person”. When people identify their preferred disability pronouns, they can avoid the situation I’ve had occur all too frequently: cringing when someone who doesn’t know me uses a term that I don’t use to describe myself, and having that unavoidable emotional reaction color the rest of the conversation / relationship.

Why Determined Person?

The United Arab Emirates uses the phrase “People of Determination” when referring to people with disabilities. That phrase really resonates with me. I think that people who don’t have a lived experience of disability may not understand how much determination, stubbornness, and sheer grit it takes for people with disabilities to get through an average day. We are determined, because we HAVE to be determined. I like the active version (“Determined person”) better, and that’s my preferred pronoun if people do not want to use the word disabled. I’ve heard some grumblings outside of the UAE that the phrase “people of determination” implies that only people with disabilities can be determined. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. There are alternatives.


Using someone’s correct disability pronouns is a way to respect them and create an inclusive environment, just as making the effort to properly pronouncing a person’s name can be an element of showing respect. If you have a disability and are open to disclosing that status, think about how you prefer to be referred to, and consider adding them to your email .sig and other business references that include names.

Published inAccessibilityDisabilitiesDiversity

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