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Saturday June 15, 2024

Govt urged to develop guidelines for respectful language referencing PWDs

By Myra Imran
May 21, 2024
This image shows the logo of the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI). — APP/File
This image shows the logo of the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI). — APP/File

Islamabad:The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has sent letters to the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers of the four provinces, calling for the development of comprehensive guidelines to replace derogatory terms currently used in official communication and documentation.

Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, Executive Director of CPDI, highlighted the urgency of this issue, stating, "The language we use shapes our perceptions and attitudes. Using derogatory terms for persons with disabilities (PWDs) not only perpetuates harmful stereotypes but also marginalises a significant segment of our population. It is imperative that we adopt language that respects their dignity and humanity."

The CPDI's letter underscores several problematic terms and phrases which are used by officials and politicians in official communications, in political rallies and in TV talk shows such as 'andhay', the term used to describe individuals with visual impairments, equates disability with ignorance and stupidity, reinforcing negative stereotypes.

Another term 'goongay' and 'behray,' the words, referring to individuals with speech and hearing impairments, are disrespectful and perpetuate harmful biases. The letter also identify terms such as 'yeh tou andhun ko bhi nazar aata hay' – this phrase further marginalizes persons with visual impairments by suggesting that even those who are blind can understand a given argument, implying a lack of intelligence. Or 'andhun ki terha apnu ko rewrian baanntna,' – often used to criticize nepotism, this proverb reinforces negative perceptions about disability.

Additionally, the CPDI's communication highlights the linguistic insensitivity in the terminology used by entities such as NADRA and PBS. Terms like ‘mentally retarded,’ ‘deaf and mute,’ and ‘crippled’ are outdated and deeply offensive. Mukhtar Ahmad Ali emphasised, "Words matter. It is crucial that we update our official language to be respectful and inclusive, reflecting the dignity of all individuals." The CPDI has requested that comprehensive guidelines be issued to ensure respectful language in both verbal communication and official correspondence.

Specific recommendations include replacing derogatory terms with respectful alternatives such as "people with physical impairments," "people with speech and hearing impairments," and "people with mental health conditions." Enclosed with the letters is a list of commonly used words, phrases, and idioms that are detrimental to the cause of persons with disabilities.