Language is a powerful thing. The words that we choose to use in everyday life convey attitudes and spread those attitudes to everyone we encounter. While labeling people with derogatory terms reinforces negative preconceptions, choosing to use positive words can have a positive influence on the whole of society. Make a conscious effort to use People-First Language words and help eliminate prejudices.
Two actors who use wheelchairs and two who do not take part in a skit.
Courtesy of That Uppity Theatre Company
People-First Language is about making respectful word choices and remembering to always put the person before his or her disability. No one wants to be identified by only one characteristic. Therefore, use language that indicates that a disability is a part of the person's life, but does not define the person.
Keep in mind that the biggest part of People-First Language is to describe what a person HAS, not what they ARE.
|Say This||Instead of This|
|Person with a disability||Cripple, disabled person, invalid, handicapped, victim|
|Person who has _______,||Afflicted with, suffers from|
|Person who uses a wheelchair or crutches; a wheelchair user; walks with crutches||Confined/restricted to a wheelchair; wheelchair bound|
|Person who has a mental or developmental disability||Retarded, moron, imbecile, idiot, slow, stupid|
|Person with a cognitive disability||Mentally retarded|
|Person who has a disability, has a condition of (spina bifida, etc.), or person born (without legs), etc.||Defective, deformed|
|Person who had a spinal cord injury, polio, a stroke, etc. or a person who has multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, etc.||Victim|
|Person who is deaf/hard of hearing||Deaf, deaf and dumb, deaf-mute, hearing-impaired|
|Person with autism||Autistic|
|Person who has been disabled since birth/who has a congenital disability||Birth defect|
|Person who receives special education services||In special education|
|Accessible parking||Handicap parking or disabled parking|
|Person of short stature||Dwarf or midget|
|People living with HIV||HIV/AIDS patient or victim|
|Person with a mental health condition||Emotionally disturbed or mentally ill|
|Person who communicates with eyes/device/etc.||Non-verbal|