Our language is continually changing to encompass new ideas and express our evolving perspectives. Sometimes this happens organically and, other times, by deliberate changes we make when we become aware that our habitual language is not in line with our respectful intentions.
Almost all of us want to show respect for the people with whom we live and work. Staying in touch with the latest recommendations for disability language is a great way to stay up-to-date in your signage, social media, and written communication
In the past, the language surrounding people with disabilities often defined or pre-judged the individual by the nature of their condition. Language that is biased toward these people perpetuates old and negative stereotypes about these individuals.
When we define people by who they are and what they accomplish, rather than the physical or mental situations they face, we empower them to contribute and enrich our communities and our culture. Our socially aware and inclusive language should value people as parents, neighbours, co-workers, teachers, and friends.
Sometimes inclusive language can seem a bit cumbersome, but with a few simple changes each of us can make a significant difference—helping to promote an inclusive culture while setting an example both inside and outside our organizations.
UK government has provided a very useful guideline on inclusive language when communicating with or about disabled people
Words to use and avoid:
Avoid passive, victim words. Use language that respects disabled people as active individuals with control over their own lives.
|(the) handicapped, (the) disabled||Disabled (people)|
|Afflicted by, suffers from, victim of||Has [name of condition or impairment]|
|Confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair-bound||Wheelchair user|
|Mentally handicapped, mentally defective, retarded, subnormal||With a learning disability (singular) with learning disabilities (plural)|
|Cripple, invalid||Disabled person|
|Spastic||Person with cerebral palsy|
|Mental patient, insane, mad||Person with a mental health condition|
|Deaf and dumb; deaf mute||Deaf, user of British Sign Language (BSL), person with a hearing impairment|
|The blind||People with visual impairments; blind people; blind and partially sighted people|
|An epileptic, diabetic, depressive, and so on||Person with epilepsy, diabetes, depression or someone who has epilepsy, diabetes, depression|
|Dwarf; midget||Someone with restricted growth or short stature|
|Fits, spells, attacks||Seizures|