Appropriate Language

  • Avoid stereotypical or stigmatising depiction of people with a disability.
  • Avoid phrases and words that demean individuals with disabilities.
  • Promote the ‘people first’ concept.
  • People with disabilities are not suffering from, victims of or afflicted by their disability.
  • They are not overcoming their disabilities, but the barriers that the rest of society puts in front of them.
  • People with disabilities should no be portrayed as courageous or tortured, but rather as individuals who find alternative means to accomplish everyday activities.

Language that appropriately describes people with a disability should always be used, as follows:

Yes – People with a disability, person with a disability
No – The handicapped, Invalid, The disabled, Abnormal, subnormal, defective, deformed, backward

Yes – People who are Deaf or hard of hearing
No – The hearing impaired / deaf-mute

Yes – People who are blind, People who are vision impaired or People who are have low vision
No – The blind, the sightless, people with vision impairment

Yes – People who use a wheelchair, wheelchair user
No – Those confined to wheelchairs, wheelchair bound

Yes – People with a mobility impairment, people with limited mobility
No – The crippled, The lame

Yes – Short statured people
No – dwarfs, midgets, little people

Yes – People with an intellectual disability
No – The retarded, the mentally deficient, Mentally retarded, defective, feeble minded

Yes – People with mental health issues, Person with a psychiatric disability
No – The insane, mental patient, mentally diseased, neurotic, psycho, psychotic, schizophrenic, unsound mind

Yes – People with a learning disability
No – The retarded / dyslexic (as a generic)

Yes – People living with HIV and AIDS
No – AIDS or HIV sufferers

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