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Use of language about disability

The words we use matter - they can empower or weaken those who we are talking to and working with. Here are some tips on how to use language to engage and support.

Certain terms can be negative, try to use language that respects children with disabilities as active and valued members of society. The general rule of thumb is to focus on the person as an individual, not the condition they experience.

Avoid: (the) handicapped, (the) disabled

Use: people with disabilities

Avoid: afflicted by, suffers from, victim of

Use: has [name of condition or impairment]


Avoid: confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair-bound

Use: wheelchair user

Avoid: mentally handicapped, mentally defective, retarded, subnormal

Use: with a learning disability (singular) with learning disabilities (plural)

Avoid: cripple, invalid

Use: person with a disability

Avoid: spastic

Use: person with cerebral palsy

Avoid: able-bodied

Use: non-disabled

Avoid: mental patient, insane, mad

Use: person with a mental health condition

Avoid: deaf and dumb; deaf mute

Use: deaf, user of Sign Language, person with a hearing impairment

Avoid: the blind

Use: people with visual impairments; blind people; blind and partially sighted people

Avoid: an epileptic, diabetic, depressive, and so on

Use: person with epilepsy, diabetes, depression or someone who has epilepsy, diabetes, depression

Avoid: dwarf; midget

Use: someone with restricted growth or short stature

Avoid: fits, spells, attacks

Use: seizures

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