The Weight of Words

“I am a survivor, not a victim,” Johnson said. “I don’t give up. I might fail, but I always feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Gunnar Johnson, a Goodwill client of seven years, was recently interviewed by the Duluth News Tribune (DNT) for an article on “People-First Language.”  Gunnar was able to share some of his background, to include past struggles and how he has been able to overcome difficulties through working at Goodwill.

According to, “People-First Language” is defined as putting the person before the disability. The site states that our choice in language can change the way we see a person, and it can change the way a person sees him or herself.  Disability is Natural goes on to say that our language shapes our attitudes; our attitudes shape our language; they’re intertwined. And our attitudes and language drive our actions.

As the DNT article states, Goodwill Duluth has been creating jobs and training people with disabilities for 96 years, and yet People-First language isn’t a policy that is specifically spelled-out.  Instead, the mindset and vocabulary inherent in People-First Language has long been adopted into Goodwill’s culture.  People with disabilities comprise the single largest minority group in America, and as such, care should be taken in showing the proper respect–a push currently being made among Goodwill’s employees.

Gunnar is choosing to focus on the positive, and has made many strides in his professional life.

“They (Goodwill) really work hard for people with disabilities,” said Gunnar. “It’s been a good place to work.”


Photos by Bob King of the Duluth News Tribune.