CSUN 2002 presentation as of Wednesday, March 20, 2002, 8 am
Handouts for the Program (downloadable PC Word Format) |
A for Accessibility: Positive Wins Every Time
(E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Web: http://twu.edu/~s_perlow/)
Information Services, Texas Woman's
University School of Library and Information Studies
CSUN 2002 Conference, LAX Hilton Hotel-Newport B Room, Wednesday, March 20, 2002, 9:20
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Program Title: A for Accessibility: Positive Wins Every Time
Type of Program: Audience participation and discussion.
A for Accessibility: Positive Wins Every Time
Presenter: Ellen Perlow
The immense tragedy of September 11, 2001 was a wake-up call to the United
States, as well as to the world. Our prayers and thoughts forever will be with
those who lost loved ones. Our vulnerability and frailty as human beings were
exposed. Last September 11th, we were taught a lesson, that all of us are
people who every day need to adapt to and be alert about our environment: some
of us due to birth, illness, accident, lifestyle choice, natural disaster,
and/or aging. Some of us due to war and terrorism.
For us here at this CSUN 2002 Accessibility Conference, we know the lesson
by heart. We who come to this conference live the experience of having to do
things differently every day. So we tend to assume that what we know to be
vitally important to everyone on this planet: accessibility and equity of
access for all, is common knowledge.
Unfortunately, it isn't.
How could ANYONE not believe accessibility to be a most relevant and
worthy cause, a cause worthy of universal attention as well as funding?
The fact that we are here this week at this CSUN conference, learning
about the latest, high-tech, super-cool, new technology and the media coverage
of this conference is yet to surpass that of Oscar night or Super Bowl Sunday,
attests to the fact that our message concerning the worthiness of the cause of
accessibility may not be registering as it should with our stakeholders:
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Yes. The world's perceptions of differability include:
1. We are problems that would just please just go away.
2. We are not even on people's radar screens. We don't exist. We are
non-entities. People with differabilities are not even considered ZERO people.
We are not people at all. We are gender-less "persons,"
objects, things. In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people with
differabilities can be sterilized without consent (Buck v.Bell, 274 U.S. 200;
47 S. Ct. 584; 1927 U.S. LEXIS 20; 71 L. Ed. 1000 (1927)). The case also is
famous for Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' commentary that "Three generations of
imbeciles are enough." See also:
3. Disabled. What's "disabled?" Take a "TapLight." With batteries it
works, the light goes on. Without batteries, literally disabling the device,
the thing, as we call it in common everyday terms, is "disabled." The TapLight
won't work, won't function, is as good as dead. That is what the term
"disabled" means by dictionary definition: inoperable, non-functioning,
incapable, incapacitated, as good as dead.
I know these above perceptions and observations to be true from life
experience. I am an "MOC:" Member of the Class. Blessed with a mobility
difference from birth, I have lived the depersonalization experience, and heard
it and seen it and tasted and smelled and felt it every day of my life. The
languages and religions of our various and diverse cultures and our media are
ingrained with the "dis" and "non" and "not" and "won't" and "don't" and
"can't" and "impaired" negative language that describes us.
For example, in an ABC News Good Morning America, October 18, 2000
interview, host Charles Gibson asked a mother why she did not secure her young
child in a car seat (the reason for her subsequent arrest that prompted her
appearance on the television program). The mother answered: "My child has
special needs." Mr. Gibson's follow-up question: "What's her problem?"
Yes. We are problems that would just please go away. Guess what? We're not
going away! We aren't dead yet! We know that the beautiful diversity of
differability, the diversity of doing things differently, is universal.
Everyone in the human race, as well as every living thing, shares this
diversity. We all need to be able to do things differently, to adapt, to cope,
to compensate, to be skilled at adaptive capacity. Everyone in the world
learned this lesson on September 11, 2001. Every day of our lives we do
things differently: whether it be taking a side road to avoid a traffic jam on
a highway or the LA Freeway, or utilizing assistive technology by wearing a
raincoat and using an umbrella on a rainy day. In any case, sooner or later,
from birth, illness, accident, lifestyle choice, natural disaster,
war/terrorism, or just by aging, we ALL are PEOPLE with differabilities. Why
is this beautiful type of diversity yet to be celebrated and universally
"Good Day! Thank you all for inviting me. Right now, my persona is Diana
Disabled, Disabled Persons Coordinator at the Center for the Physically,
Mentally, Developmentally Disabled and Impaired. I appear before you, the
President's Committee to Fund Special Services, to appeal to you to provide the
requested funding of $10,000 - a fifth of our original request - for our
Center's programs. We have over 500 disabled persons registered for our
service: blind, deaf, developmentally-disabled, learning-disabled,
feeble-minded, retarded persons and invalids with cognitive, learning, motor,
and other damage and disorders, defects, deficiencies, deformities, disruptive
behavior disorders, difficulties, disturbances, handicaps, impairments,
problems, syndromes, and disabilities. Our disabled, handicapped, impaired, ADA
clientele most likely cannot achieve, cannot do the same work, will not
graduate from our programs, will not find employment, as the fine capable
individuals in the programs that you have previously funded over many years do
to such a great degree. After all, our clients are disabled. We also apologize
for setting them up for failure with false expectations. Their impairments,
problems, and needs are numerous, and some, if not most of their equipment
needs, such as hearing-impaired equipment, and are costly. Of course we
understand your concerns about the great financial burdens that we are asking
this Presidential Committee to undertake, especially in this time of national
crisis and economic uncertainty when recruiting into our workforce exclusively
perfectly able-bodied people seems the only alternative. That is why we have
cut our request to a fifth of our original request, and are willing to accept
even much less. We realize that we are advocating for welfare for the most
disadvantaged, non-functioning, and lowest common denominators among us."
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In the alternative, as a product saleswoman for an assistive technology
company, a sample sales pitch to promote product lines of screen magnifiers and
screen readers into the mainstream marketplace.
"Welcome to the new, improved products of our company "Disabled and
Impaired, Inc." We manufacture and distribute products for the Blind and
Visually Impaired and Handicapped, disabled persons with a wide variety of
impairments and difficulties, and of course, the aged ..."
We the Consumers
Do the above paragraphs represent how we advocate for ourselves, the
people for whom we advocate, how we promote our accessibility cause and our
"high tech with the highest human touch" superb, wondrous assistive technology
Personally, as a consumer, I would not even give a passing thought to
giving ANYTHING - my time, energy, OR money - to such a losing, desperate,
failure of a cause. Would you?
- As a consumer shopping in a supermarket or on the Internet, would you buy
a product ...
- As a corporate executive or funding agency, would you fund research and
development for a product ...
- As an employer, would you hire an employee ...
- As a college admissions officer, would you accept into your program a
that/who is advertised/promoted/described as "incapacitated, incapable,
non-functioning" [some of the dictionary definitions of the word "disabled]",
dependent on others' assistance, having problems, deformities, deficiencies,
difficulties, handicaps, limitations, impairments, impediments, disorders and
syndromes, being "damaged goods" and a costly financial burden?
Why would anyone waste his/her time, money, energy or even a passing
thought to supporting a guaranteed-by-definition failing cause?
If buying/recruiting into a profession "damaged goods" and failure is
the message that we are promoting to the outside world, let us also consider
the messages being received and internalized by our most important stakeholders
- the people for whom we are advocating; in this CSUN Forum, ourselves.
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To quote "Life Law #2: You Create Your Own Experience: If you choose
thoughts that demean and depreciate you, then you choose the consequences of
low self-esteem and low self-confidence.'" (Phillip C. McGraw. Ph.D. Life
Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters. Hyperion, 1999, page 68.)
* Negative thoughts and words result in negative perceptions.
* Positive thoughts and words engender positive perceptions.
* Change the language, change the perception.
We, The Advertisers
Ask any advertiser or its advertising agency. How we say what we say is
important, crucial. Listen to or read any commercial or advertisement. How do
the advertisers sell us the products and services that they want us to buy, the
products and services that we do buy, and those in which we invest our time,
energy, and money?
a. Do the advertisers tell us that the products and services cause
problems and are not worth buying?
b. Do the advertisers tell us that the products and services have defects,
handicaps, are impaired, invalid, damaged and/or
disfigured, and/or can only work with [costly] accommodations?
c. Do the advertisers tell us that the products and services are disabled,
or are, as the "d" word means by dictionary definition,
incapable, incapacitated and inoperable, so cannot work or function?
Not if the advertisers can avoid doing so! Why not?
The advertisers know that we consumers would not personally spend or waste
OUR precious, limited time and money buying, supporting, or investing in
products that are damaged, defective, disfigured, dysfunctional, abnormal,
impaired (that in American English has a strong connotation of being drunk),
problematic, difficult, handicapped, disabled, and/or have a disorder, products
that will not and cannot function or work.
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The above product descriptors certainly sound familiar. The negative,
depersonalizing "dis" terminology is the very terminology we and the media use
every day to describe our positive accessibility products and services, the
worthiness of the people for whom we advocate, and the worthiness of the very
people who we are.
Is it any wonder that our positive accessibility programs, initiatives,
products and services receive so little, if any, support or interest? If we
want people to support our cause and to fund our programs, why do we describe
and represent our products, our clientele, ourselves, in the worst, most
negative, unattractive way? Why do we utilize terminology that tends to
motivate people to ignore or oppose our efforts?
Simply stated: Why would anyone support or promote ANYTHING that won't
work, won't function, that is from the outset a failure and unworthy of
support? By using the "d" words, and perpetuating the myth that we are "things"
that won't work and cannot do, we are demeaning ourselves and our cause into a
How can we win? How can we convince others to want to join us in
celebrating the diversity of doing things differently, in celebrating a new
century that celebrates diversity?
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Do what Madison Avenue does: Go Positive!
Positive Language Can Work for Us and Attract the Stakeholder Support that
The masters of positive language are the successful corporations and their
advertising agencies who make the products that we consumers buy - regardless
of the actual quality or safety of the product.
If a company's advertising can attract consumer's attention and through
POSITIVE imagery make us consumers feel good about ourselves, the product will
sell. It could be a catchy product name or slogan, a memorable jingle, or
eye-catching graphics. Whatever it is: it makes us consumers feel good.
Positive Language works for advertisers. It works for politicians and
their corporate supporters. It can work for us.
Why does positive language work? Positive language gives the listener, the
receiver = our stakeholders what they want to hear. People want to feel good
and positive language provides that feel-good feeling. It is human nature not
to want to associate with the negative or negative labels that are simply a
turnoff. Social causes like ___ control, anti-____, non-_____ , and _
against___ have a difficult time succeeding because their labels create a
negative perception of confrontation, control (no one likes to be controlled or
told what to do about anything), conflict. Switch to positive labels such as
pro- _____, _ safety, _-free ___, ___ for ____, one's cause automatically has
the perception of success and being worthwhile.
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A Top Ten To-Do List
1. Be Positive. Act Positively. Communicate Positively. PEOPLE First,
Can-Do Language. Always.
Let us stop "dissing" ourselves. We need to match our already positive
actions with positive words, thus establishing positive perceptions that will
convince people to WANT to support our positive initiatives. We are PEOPLE
first, PEOPLE who happen to do things differently, PEOPLE/ AN INDIVIDUAL who
happen[s] to have "differabilities." Don't we all? Is there
such a thing as a perfect person? Let us regard and describe others positively,
with the same respect and dignity which we ourselves would like to be accorded.
2. They ARE Us. Care. [Positively] Encourage everyone to communicate
positively and say it right: positively. Make accessibility, assistive
technology, and universal design relevant to everyone, because they are.
We need to make our cause PERSONALLY relevant and important to others and
inclusive of everyone, because our call for equity of access IS relevant for
everyone. Forget the 'theys,' 'thems," and 'those people.' Differability is all
about "We," "Us.""They" ARE Us. Everyone is diverse. Doing things differently
is universal. Aging is a fact of human life, as are accidents, illnesses,
lifestyle choices, natural disasters, and war. So sooner or later, if not
already, every one of us in the human race will have to do things differently
and use assistive technology. In fact, all of us do things differently and
utilize assistive technology every day of our lives. Has anyone not traveled a
different route to avoid an obstructed path or traffic jam or not recently
utilized an umbrella, elevator, cell phone, hand-held computer, or remote
3. Don't assume anything. Tomorrow it could be you who needs that
accessible parking space or needs to ride public transportation. Never say
"never, "cannot, won't, don't..." Perhaps we do "it" differently, but "it" can
be accomplished superbly.
4. Advocate for changing and actually change names of services, programs
to positive terminology: i.e.: "Disability Support"/"Disabled Student Services"
= "Accessibility Office[r]." Re-word product descriptions to positive phrasing.
Instead of a program/course/workshop/article title "AT for the Blind and
Instead: "AT for People with Vision Differences/ Hearing
PERSONS [gender neutral or neutered] with DISabilities " conferences ..
Instead: "Accessibility Conferences"
"Directory of Services for Blind and Visually Impaired Persons"
Instead: "Directory for People with Vision Differences"
"National Library Service to the Blind and Physically Handicapped"
Instead: "National Library [or Library of Congress] Accessibility/Access
"Assistive technology for persons who have difficulties ..."
Instead: "assistive technology who have [vision] differences ...
"Access to today's popular applications for blind and vision impaired
Why not: "Access to today's popular applications for people with vision
"Disability Employment Awareness Month"
Why not "Accessibility Awareness Month?"
TV program: "Please Don't Stare: We're Not Monsters! (On "deformities")
[If we're not monsters, what/WHO are we?]
Why not: So We Look Different: Doesn't Everyone?"
5. Describe ourselves and our work positively. If NEGATIVE is how we
describe and talk ourselves and about the people for whom we advocate and the
products we market, one should expect that our products and our cause are
perceived equally NEGATIVELY. We need to be POSITIVE about ourselves for others
to be POSITIVE about us and our cause.
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6. Celebrate Diversity, All Diversity, including differability: the
beautiful diversity of doing things differently. Differability is a beautiful
type of diversity that is UNIVERSAL, a type of diversity that all of us in the
human race, all living things share. We all do things differently. Every last
one of us. Every day of our lives we do things differently: whether it be
taking a side road to avoid a traffic jam on a highway or wearing a raincoat or
using an umbrella on a rainy day. In any case, sooner or later, from birth,
illness, accident, lifestyle choice, natural disaster, war/terrorism, or just
by aging, we ALL are PEOPLE with differabilities.
7. Go for 150%. If our requests for support are for anything less than
100% of what we want, our stakeholders may be left with the
perception that our cause might not be that important - to us either. If we
ask for 50%, we may get 10%, even nothing. If we ask for 100%, we may get 50%.
Going for 150%, we may even get 100%. There is nothing to lose in trying for
even more than everything.
8. PEOPLE First. 'They' ARE Us. Positive Language. Always.
9. Positive Language Sells. Positive Language Wins. Positive Language
Works. Every Time.
10. "Toot Our Own Horn." If WE don't say it right, POSITIVELY, Who Will???
Just as we recruit new students to our colleges and training programs with
positive imagery of our schools, our curricula, faculty, staff, students,
resources and services, we can recruit new advocates to our accessibility
cause with positive language, positive terminology.
A for Accessibility. "They" are us. We all "join the crowd" due to birth,
illness, accident, war, natural disaster, lifestyle choice, or simply by aging,
We all are people; people first: people who accomplish and achieve in different
ways. We who do things differently possess the valuable life skill known as
adaptive capacity. We all have differences: vision, mobility, hearing,
perceptual, cognitive, learning differences, etc. etc. Let us celebrate our
differences, our diversity.
Positive language empowers and can positively change the course of events.
A Positive Language and Advocacy Success Story: During the Summer of 2001,
despite the clear "people-first" standard, accepted, official language of "The
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990" [The ADA] and subsequent legislation,
our United States national library, the Library of Congress [LC], planned to
change the current "Handicapped" LC Subject Heading to the even more negative,
depersonalizing term "Disabled persons." The LC's Cataloging Policy and
Support Office [CPSO] based its choice of the demeaning terminology on a usage
note in an English language dictionary, not on the language of the legal
documents of its raison d'etre, the U.S. Congress.
Embracing the power of positive language, this accessibility advocate
personally enlisted the support of other accessibility advocates in a positive,
people-first campaign that resulted in the Library of Congress' CPSO
reconsidering its decision. Persuaded by positive, people-first advocacy, the
CPSO decided to adopt current legally standard people-first language ("People
with disabilities") as the new standard Library of Congress Subject Heading: a
term that millions of people worldwide will use to search for resources in
libraries around the globe. See:
A for Accessibility: Positive Does Win Every Time.
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The On-Site Program, March 20, 2002
Handouts for the Program (downloadable PC Word Format) |
During the program, attendees will participate/role play various
scenarios that will highlight the differences between a negative and
POSITIVE=WINNING approach. After a brief introduction, the interactive part of
the program called Buy that product!
- Exercise: Try selling or promoting the best product ever made in the
worst possible light, for example: Yourself!
Role-play with colleagues serving as
the employer, etc.that you are a member of the class
and are going for a job interview, going out on a date, trying to obtain
customer service in a department store, etc.
- What does NOT work: i.e. Would the employer hire you? Would the other
individual take you out on a second date? Would you receive the customer
service you expect?
- Now change your approach, and sell yourself!
- Exercise: Pretend you are an advertising agency given a multimillion
dollar contract to successfully market the worst-ever product
ever manufactured. Create an advertisement or commercial that will
successfully sell it to people worldwide.
Make it sound like the best, most practical, appealing product in the world.
Please break into small groups and utilize
the flip charts to list keywords, for instance, the negative on the left side,
and the positive substitutes on the right. We
will meet back in about 5 minutes to experience your sales pitches....
Imagine: If we can successfully sell the worst product ever, think what we
can do with our world class Accessibility services and personnel, and for the
best people in the world: people who do things differently, people with
differabilities (a/k/a all of us!).
Examples of websites with positive language. Most of the sites chosen are
not sites that focus on accessibility issues, rather sites from the world of
- Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation http://www.hellofriend.org/
- Cyberwink. Website of Don Winkler, CEO of Ford Financial Corporation.
- San Francisco Public Library Access Services http://188.8.131.52/access_services/
- University of Southern Maine. GENASYS: Generating Assistive Technology
A Sample Taster's Test of Positive Language Sites via a Google Search
Engine Search (accessed March 6, 2002)
National Spinal Cord Injury Association Resource Center
Factsheet #8: Spinal Cord Injury Awareness - Understanding the Importance of
Language and Images http://www.makoa.org/nscia/fact08.html
Using Positive Language
Positive Language Quiz http://ec.hku.hk/epc/interviews/postive_language_quiz_timed.htm
Teacher Talk http://www.ci.swt.edu/courses/Blocks/NBHSBlock/TeacherTalk
Positive Language in Business Communication http://www.westwords.com/guffey/EBC5/
Using Positive Language in Adoption (law firm website) http://walden.mvp.net/~complaw/lang.htm
The Magic of a Positive Attitude: Eileen Brownell - http://www.soho.org/Start_Up_Articles/Positive_Attitude.htm
Positive Reinforcement http://www.twerner.com/tools/reinforcement.htm
Positive Speaking http://www.speaking.com/articles_html/MaraDerHovanesian-TimesBusiness_521.html
Center for Expert Performance, Inc.: Expert Tips:
September 6, 2001: Positive Language helps you reach your dreams.
Jim Lukaszewski: The Strategic Power of Positive Language
SET for Success. "Using Positive Language."
Australian Coalition '99. Useful Tips on the Positive Language of Ageing.
Philip Morris Companies. Announcement for proposed new company name,
"Altria Group" November 16, 2001. http://www.philipmorris.com/pressroom/press_releases/pmcosincannouncment.asp
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