Words Matter.

Language is a reflection of how people see each other. That’s why the words we use can hurt. It’s also why responsible communicators are now choosing language which reflects the dignity of people with disabilities – words that put the person first, rather than the disability.

  • Think people first. Say, “A woman with developmental disabilities,” rather than, “A developmentally disabled woman.”
  • Avoid words like, “unfortunate,” “afflicted,” and “victim.”
  • A developmental disability is not a disease. Do not mention, “symptoms,” “patients,” or “treatment,” unless the person you are describing has an illness as well as a disability.
  • Use common sense. Avoid terms with negative or judgmental connotations, such as “crippled,” “deaf and dumb,” “lame,” and defective.”
  • Never refer to a person as, “confined to a wheelchair.” A person with mobility impairment “uses” a wheelchair.
  • Try to describe people without disabilities as “typical” rather than “normal.”
  • Most importantly, if you aren’t sure how to refer to a person’s condition, ask.