Your View: Misuse of the word 'handicap'

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COLUMBIA - This summer KOMU 8 News reported on the city's decision to allow citizens to report the misuse of accessible parking in Columbia.

But KOMU 8 News used the word 'handicap' to describe these parking spots.

Tara Shade, a viewer who works at Alternative Community Training, commented on our Facebook post about it for a Today's Talk segment, saying, "You need to stop using the term 'handicap'. It is negative. You should use the term accessible instead. In fact all signs should say that too. Look up the changes in law dated August 28, 2011. Your team should receive some training on the use of person first language. Please explore this important issue."

The law Shade is referring to is the Missouri House Bill 560, and it states that all parking signs must no longer use the word 'handicap,' instead using 'accessible.'

KOMU 8 News spoke with Shade to discuss the use of the word, and she said she understands why it was used in our newscast, "I think most people in the media who don't use person-first language don't do that knowingly or willingly," Shade said.

Annie Hammock, the KOMU 8 interactive director, said we might have overlooked the current perception of this word during our reporting.

"You know a lot of people grew up using the word handicapped," Hammock said. "And it's only been in recent years that there's been this move to erase that word from the lexicon and to prefer the word disabled."

KOMU 8 News understands that as journalists it is our responsibility to be up to date.

Shade explained that language is always changing and adapting in society, and this could be why some changes take awhile to adapt to in a community.

"I think politically correct terms and language, it grows over time," Shade said.

KOMU 8 news sends out our apologies for this mistake. We made sure our employees understand this issue, "We need to be sensitive to how people label themselves," Hammock said. "It's very important to them. We need to respect that. So an email went out. I went back in and changed, edited, the stories."

Shade understands that most of the time the usage of this word is just a mistake, but asks people to be more careful and conscious, "We all have strengths," Shade said. "We all have weaknesses. Nobody likes to talk about their weaknesses, or focus on their weaknesses. So I think the more we can remember that all people are just that, people, then that is person-first language."

KOMU 8 News is working our hardest to make sure it doesn't happen again.

If you think there is something we should address, reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter or email us at news@KOMU.com.

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