Monday, August 23, 2010

A Way with words and images

Do not say or useDo use or say
Use images that isolate or call special attention to persons with disabilities unless appropriate to the subject matterUse images that show persons with disabilities participating in society
Use actors or models without disabilities to represent persons with disabilitiesUse actors or models with disabilities to portray persons with disabilities
Always depict the super-achieving individual to represent all persons with disabilitiesDepict whenever possible, the typical individual who has a disability
Aged (the), Elderly (the), Adjectives like frail, senile or feeble suggest a negative image of seniors and should not be usedSeniors
Birth defect, congenital defect, deformity

Blind (the), Visually impaired (the)

Confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair-bound

Person who is blind, person with a visual impairment

Person who uses a wheelchair, Wheelchair user for individuals with mobility impairment, a wheelchair is a means to get around independently, Person with a disability, person with a mobility impairment, person who has arthritis, a spinal cord injury, etc.

Hard of hearing (the), hearing impairedPerson who is hard of hearing. These individuals are not deaf and may compensate for a hearing loss with an amplification device or system.
Deaf-mute, deaf and dumbPerson who is deaf. Culturally-linguistic deaf people (that is, sign language users) are properly identified as "the Deaf" (upper-case "D"). People who do not use sign language are properly referred to as "the deaf" (lower-case "d") or "people who are deaf".
Epileptic (the)Person who has epilepsy.
Fit, attack, spellSeizure
Handicapped (the) Person with a disability, unless referring to an environmental attitudinal barrier. In such instances "person who is handicapped by" is appropriate.
Handicapped parking, bathroomsAccessible parking, bathrooms


  • lunatic
  • maniac
  • mental person
  • mentally diseased
  • neurotic
  • psycho
  • psychotic
  • schizophrenic
  • unsound mind

Persons with a mental health disability, person who has schizophrenia, person who has depression.
It is important to remember that the development of appropriate terminology is still in progress: however, the terms are currently in use. The term "insane" (unsound mind) should only be used in strictly legal sense.
Obviously words such as "crazy", "demented", "deviant", "loony", "mad" and "nuts" should be avoided.


Person with a disability.
The literal sense of the words "invalid" is "not valid".

Learning disabled, learning disordered, the dyslexicsA person with a learning disability or persons with learning disabilities.

Mentally retarded

  • defective
  • feeble minded
  • idiot
  • imbecile
  • moron
  • retarded
  • simple
  • mongoloid
Person with an intellectual disability, person who is intellectually impaired.
One can say a person with Down's Syndrome only if relevant to the story.
Normal is only acceptable in reference to statistics (i.e. the norm)
Person who is not disabled.
PatientPerson with a disability.
Unless the relationship being referred to is between a doctor and client.

Physically challenged

  • Differently able
Person with a disability
She/he has a problem with... She/he has a need for...
SpasticPerson who has spasms
Spastic should never be used as a norm

Suffers from

  • afflicted by
  • stricken with
Person with a disability, person who has cerebral palsy, etc. Having a disability is not synonymous with suffering.
Victim of cerebal palsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, etc. Person who has cerebal palsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, etc.
Person with a disability.
Person with a mobility impairment.

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