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There are some important ways to talk with and write about a person with a disability. Keep in mind that if you are unsure of the proper term, always asks what the individual prefers. The best way to refer to a person with a disability is always by name. Below are some examples:

Outdated or Offensive


Proper or Accepted

“The” name of group (disabled, blind, autistic)

Does not reflect the
individuality, equality, or dignity of people with disabilities
People with disabilities
Deaf people

People who are blind

People who have low vision


Disabilities don’t handicap: attitudes and architecture handicap

People with disabilities

Disabled Person

Put person first, describe what a person is, not what a person has

Person with a disability

Normal, healthy, whole, able‐bodied (when speaking of the non‐disabled)

Implies that a person with a disability isn’t normal


Person without a disability

Hearing impaired

Negative connotation of impaired

Hard of Hearing
Hearing loss

Wheelchair‐bound, confined

Wheelchairs don’t confine, they make people mobile

Uses a wheelchair, wheelchair user

Retarded, Mentally Defective, Simple, Slow

Stigmatizing. Implies that a person cannot learn

Cognitive disability, developmental disability, intellectual disability


Considered offensive

Person of short stature

Cripple, Crippled


Has a disability, physical disability

Suffers from

Negative connotation of suffers

Has a disability

Admits she/he has a disability

Disability is not something people admit to or needs to be admitted to

Says she/he has a disability

For an additional reference on people first language please visit:

http://www.dol.gov To navigate to this website go to Labor’s main website and go to the list of agencies on the left hand side and click on “ODEP”. Then go to the right side of the screen and click on “Publications”. Under factsheets click on “Disability and Workplace Culture” and then click on Effective Interaction: Communicating With and About People with Disabilities in the Workplace.