Advice on using respectful disability terminology and language, and how to talk to people with disabilities
When a person has a disability, it doesn’t define who they are. Each person with a disability is a unique individual with their own personality, interests, and skills.
Using respectful disability terminology and language
Some words that are used to describe people with a disability which were perhaps learnt while growing up, can be hurtful to a person.
Here are some of the right and wrong ways of talking about a person with a disability.
|Words to avoid
||Person without a disability
|Disabled, handicapped, invalid, special needs, defected, deformed
|Person with a disability
||Person with paraplegia, person with quadriplegia
|Confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound
||Uses a wheelchair
|Cripple, crippled, physically challenged
|Dwarf, midget, little person, vertically challenged
|Insane, lunatic, maniac, mental patient, mental, psycho, psychopath, crazy, demented, skitzo
||Person with a mental illness
|Retarded, tard, moron, intellectually challenged
||Person with an intellectual disability
|Mongol, mongoloid, mong, downsy
||Person with Down syndrome
||Person with a disability, person with cerebral palsy
||Mental health clinic
How to talk to people with disabilities
When you’re talking with a person who has a disability, just be yourself. Make sure you:
- Establish and maintain eye contact
- Talk directly to the person - don’t talk to their companion instead
- Never speak about the person as if they can’t understand or respond
- Don’t assume a person can’t do things
- Don’t talk about 'fixing' or 'making the person better'. They might feel fine!
- Ask someone first before offering help - they may not need it!
- Don't pat or talk to a guide dog or service animal - these animals are working so shouldn’t be distracted
- Don’t assume a person with a disability has other disabilities. Eg, someone who has low vision can still hear you, there is no need to shout.