CDC Puts Out New ‘Inclusive’ Language Guide

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shown Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The act of referring to someone as “elderly,” “uninsured,” or an “inmate” is supposedly dehumanizing and not “inclusive,” as mandated in a new policy put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In what seems to be a newly published guide, the CDC lists various descriptors and phrases that it thinks are not inclusive enough before providing a list of various “non-stigmatizing” language. The newly released guide seems to include multiple sections, grouping terms under banners like “Disability” and “Homelessness” before stating that those very words were still not inclusive enough.

An example, as listed under the disability heading, the posted guide states that words such as “disabled,” “differently-abled” and “handicapped” are very stigmatizing and should be entirely replaced with very long phrases such as “people with disabilities/a disability” or “people who use a wheelchair or mobility device.”

“CDC is aware that some individuals with disabilities prefer to use identity-first terminology, which means a disability or disability status is referred to first; for the purposes of these guidelines, CDC promotes person-first language,” states the guide.

The vast majority of the guide is quite similar, seemingly suggesting the shorter identifier statement is wrong but the act of simply adding “people with” ahead of the old way of speaking is all it takes to make it much more inclusive.

The guide’s headlines are presented in alphabetical order, with the first section being titled “Corrections & Detentions” and seems to say that words such as “inmate,” “prisoner,” “convict/ex-convict,” “offender,” “criminal,” “parolee,” and “detainee” are all very triggering. Instead of such harsh language, the CDC states that it is proper to use the following terms:

  • People/persons who are incarcerated or detained (often used for shorter jail stays or youth in detention facilities)
  • Partner/child of an incarcerated person
  • Persons in pre-trial or with charge
  • People who were formerly incarcerated
  • Persons on parole or probation
  • Non-US citizens (or immigrants) in immigration detention facilities
  • People in immigration detention facilities

The new guide goes on in this way. Under the section called “Drug/Substance Use,” the CDC seemingly suggests that we do not call people “alcoholics,” “smokers,” or “drug-users,” but instead we should use phrases such as “persons with substance use disorder” or “people who smoke.”

Instead of using the term “elderly,” the CDC says we should be calling people “older adults or elders” or only refer to people using age ranges.

The guide goes on like this for every headline with several very weird additions. One of the oddest words to be blacklisted by the CDC is “stakeholder,” which the agency says is  “persons or groups who have an interest or concern in a project, activity, or course of action.” The CDC seems to suggest replacing this word “as much as possible” and instead of using words like “informers, advisors, consultants, collaborators, co-owners.”

All of this seems quite an insane thing to focus on, especially given what the country is currently going through and once someone starts the free fall down this rabbit hole it is almost impossible to stop from ending up implicating yourself with your own language.

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