People with disabilities are just that—people. Everyone has multiple facets to their personalities and different aspects to their lives. Using language that puts the person first is not a matter of political correctness—it acknowledges that people with disabilities are human beings and should not be defined or limited by other’s perceptions of their bodies and minds.



Instead of

People with disabilities

The disabled, the handicapped

The disability community

Special-needs population

Child with a disability

Disabled or handicapped child


Is afflicted with…suffer from… is a victim of….

Person with cerebral palsy

Palsied or spastic

Without speech, nonverbal

Mute or dumb

Has a developmental delay

Is slow

Has emotional disorder or mental illness

Is crazy, nuts, insane, postal

Can’t hear and has no speech

Deaf and dumb

Uses a wheelchair

Is confined to a wheelchair; is wheelchair-bound

Person with mental retardation


Person with epilepsy


Person with Down Syndrome


Has a learning disability

Is learning disabled

Not disabled

Normal, healthy, able-bodied

Has a physical disability or mobility impairment

Is crippled, lame

Has a chronic illness

Is sickly

Has quadriplegia (paralysis of both arms and legs)

Is quadriplegic

Has paraplegia (loss of function in lower body only)

Is paraplegic


This material was adapted from: Succeeding Together: People With Disabilities in the Workplace by Terri Goldstein, M.S., CRC, Michael Winkler, M.S., and Margaret Chun, M.S., and presented at The Oakland County Employment and Diversity Council’s Workplace Diversity luncheon: From Barriers To Bridges-Honoring Our common Differences, Friday, November 14, 2003, Northfield Hilton, Troy, Michigan.