Empowering Terms
Acceptable Terms
Person, person with a disability
Disability, a general term used for functional limitation that interferes with a person's ability, for example, to hear, walk, learn, or lift. It may refer to a physical, mental or sensory condition.
People with cerebral palsy, people with spinal cord injuries.
People with spinal cord injury, polio, a stroke, etc., or a person who has multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, etc.
Has a disability, has a condition of (spina bifida, etc.), or born without legs, etc.
Deaf/Hearing Impaired "Deaf" refers to a person who has a total loss of hearing. "Hearing Impaired refers to a person with partial loss of hearing within a range from slight to severe
Person who has a mental or development disability
Uses a wheelchair or crutches; a wheelchair user; walks with crutches
Able-bodied; able to walk, see, hear, etc.; people who are not disabled
Unacceptable Terms
Cripple, crippled- The incorrect image conveyed is of a deformed useless body
Handicap, handicapped person, or handicapped
Cerebral palsied, spinal cord injured, etc. Never identify people solely by their disability
Victim; people with disabilities do not like to be perceived as victims for the rest of their lives, long after any victimization has occurred
Defective, defect, deformed vegetable- these words are offensive, dehumanizing, degrading and stigmatizing
Deaf and dumb- is as bad as it sounds. Inability to hear or speak does not indicate any less intelligence
Retarded, moron, imbecile, idiot - These are offensive and inaccurate
Confined/Restricted to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound. Most people who use a wheelchair or mobility devices do not regard them as confining. They are viewed as liberating, a means of getting around
Healthy- when used to contrast with ‘disabled,' ‘healthy' implies the person with a disability is unhealthy. Many people with disabilities have excellent health.