People First Language
Every person is made up of many characteristics - mental as well as physical and few want to be identified only by their ability to play tennis or by their love for fried onions or by the mole that's on their face. Those are just parts of us.
In speaking or writing, remember that children or adults with disabilities are like everyone else except they happen to have a disability. Therefore, here are a few tips for improving your language related to disabilities.
- Emphasize abilities, not limitations
- Do not label people as part of a disability group, don't say "the disabled", say "people with disabilities."
- Don't give excessive praise or attention to a person with a disability; don't patronize them.
- Choice and independence are important, let the person do or speak for him/herself as much as possible; if addressing an adult, say Bill instead of Billy.
- A disability is a functional limitation that interferes with a person's ability to walk, talk, learn, etc; use handicap to describe a situation barrier imposed by society, the environment or oneself.
It's the "People First"
Then the Disability
|Child with a disability||disabled or handicapped person|
|Person with Cerebral Palsy||palsied, or C.P., or spastic|
|Person who is deaf of hard of hearing||deaf and dumb|
|Person with mental retardation||retarded|
|Person with epilepsy or person with seizure disorder||epileptic|
|Person who had....||afflicted, suffers from, victim|
|Without speech, nonverbal||mute, or dumb|
|Emotional disorder, or mental illness||crazy or insane|
|Uses a wheelchair||confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound|
|With Down syndrome||Mongoloid|
|Has a learning disability||is learning disabled|
|Has a physical disability||crippled|
|Congenital disability||birth defect|
|Cleft lip||hare lip|
|Medically involved, or has chronic illness||sickly|
|Paralyzed||invalid or paralytic|
|Of short stature||dwarf or midget|
1991, PACER Center, Inc., 4826 Chicago Ave. S., Mpls, MN 55417-1908
Last Modified: October 23, 2002