As an educator and a professional, you should be aware that your behavior and the language you use can create a negative or positive view of people with disabilities. The following guidelines, reflecting input from over 100 national disability organizations and experts, may help you to project a sensitive non-discriminatory manner.
Put people first, not their disability.
Emphasize abilities, not limitations…
Show people with disabilities as active participants…
Be supportive, but not overly solicitous
Use generic labels for disability groups
Focus on the disability—focus, instead, on the issues
Refer to people with disabilities as patients or "cases"
People with disabilities:
prefer to be called "people with disabilities," not "disabled people"
are not conditions or diseases; they are individuals first and only secondarily do they have one or more disabling conditions.
Person/persons with a disability
People with cerebral palsy, people with a spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy, etc.
Deafness/hearing impairment "Deafness" refers to a person who has partial loss of hearing within a range of mild to severe.
Person with a speech disorder, or person without speech.
Person who has a mental or psychiatric disability, or emotional disorder.
Person who has a mental or developmental disability.
Uses a wheelchair or crutches; a wheelchair user; walks with crutches
People who do not have a disability; non-disabled
Handicap, handicapped person
Cerebral palsied, spinal cord injured people, etc. Never identify people solely by their disability.
Deaf and dumb--is as bad as it sounds. Inability to hear or speak does not suggest less intelligence.
Dumb [see above]; mute
Psycho, nut, lunatic, crazy, schizo, psychiatric, schizophrenic
Confined/Restricted to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound. Most people who use a wheelchair or mobility devices do not regard them as confining
People who do not have a disability - Normal--When in use as the opposite of "disabled," implies the person with a disability is abnormal. Also inappropriate are "able-bodied" "healthy" or "whole."
Adapted from Oklahoma Disability Etiquette Handbook, from the Office of Handicapped Concerns, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1993 and Guidelines for Reporting and Writing about People with Disabilities , University of Kansas -Research and Training center on Independent Living, 1996)
return to Guide to Accommodations