The Power of Language



Please Say

Instead Of / Do Not Use

People with disabilities

Person with a disability

Person with mobility impairment

Person with a physical disability

A disabled person

A cripple

Handicapped / has a handicap

Has a special need / special needs

Refer to the person first, such as:

Kumar has multiple sclerosis.

Costos has cerebral palsy.

Jannine has muscular dystrophy.

He / she is crippled by

Suffers from, afflicted by, victim, invalid, stricken with, spastic patient (OK to use if undergoing treatment)

Or, describe the person’s needs, and omit the diagnosis.

Blake uses a power chair

Jose writes on a computer

Aletha needs behaviour supports

Blake is a paraplegic

Jose can’t use a pen

Aletha has behaviour problems

Persons with disabilities are part of the community. They live, work, raise children, pay bills, shop, go to restaurants, drive, and enjoy sports and recreation where they live, not in a “special community” somewhere else.

Those people

People like that

Those poor people

The disabled community

Children without disabilities

Able-bodied children

Normal, whole, healthy, typical kids (implies that a child with a disability is not normal or healthy)


Normal, average (acceptable only for statistics)

A wheelchair enables mobility.

For the person who uses a wheelchair, scooter, or other mobility aid, it facilitates independence, freedom, and speed.

He uses a wheelchair.

She walks with crutches, a walker, or canes

She’s confined to a wheelchair

He’s restricted to a wheelchair

I would hate to be wheelchair bound

He has to use a wheelchair

Accessible parking space...

Hotel is accessible...

Handicapped zone...

Hotel rooms are for handicapped...

She needs...

He uses...

She has a problem with...

He has special needs...