Does language matter?

Using proper language is not simply being politically correct. The words we use to describe one another can have an enormous impact on the perceptions we and others have, how we treat one another, and how we make people feel.

Using "person first" language ("person with a disability," "person with a visual impairment") helps remind us and others that people with disabilities are people first, and are more than their disability. If you are unsure of how to address someone, it is acceptable to ask instead of making an assumption of how that individual would like to be addressed by others.

The following are guidelines for talking with, and about, a person with a disability:

Instead of: Use: Because:
The Handicapped Persons with Disabilities Handicapped is derived from "cap in hand" and implies that someone is dependent on society
The Disabled Persons with Disabilities One is a person before one is disabled
Wheelchair Bound,
Confined to a Wheelchair
Uses a Wheelchair
or Wheelchair User
A wheelchair is not confining-it allows movement from one place to another
Birth Defect Congenital Disability Persons with disabilities are not defective
Crippled Has a Disability Crippled comes from Old English "to creep" and is also used as an adjective meaning inferior
Mongoloid Persons with Down Syndrome Mongoloid is a racist term
Mental, Crazy, Psycho, Insane,
Nut Case
Person with Mental Illness These are offensive and negative stereotypes
Normal, Healthy, Whole Non-Disabled People with disabilities may also be normal, healthy, and whole
Deaf and Dumb,
Person who is Deaf or
a Person who Does Not Speak
Simply because someone is deaf does not mean they cannot speak, and they are not dumb