There are more than 49 million Americans with disabilities. People with disabilities don't always agree on what is offensive or correct, but this guide provides some general direction.
It's difficult to always know what is offensive when referring to people with disabilities, but a good general rule is to "Put people first, not the disability." For example:
|Children who are deaf||Deaf children|
|Girl who has cerebral palsy||Cerebralpalsied girl|
|Man with mental illness||Mentally ill|
|People or person with disabilities||Disabled people|
|Physical disability||Crippled, lame|
|Mental disability||Crazy, nuts|
Don't use judgmental or stereotypical or obsolete descriptions: For example, avoid:
Also avoid using words like courageous, brave, inspirational. Adapting to a disability does not necessarily mean acquiring those traits. For example, it doesn't take "courage" to wear glasses or contact lenses to correct eyesight.
The following are commonly used terms when discussing disabilities.
Many disablity groups do not like using euphemisms to describe disabilities. They consider terms such as "partially sighted," "handicapable," "mentally different," and "physically challenged" patronizing.
People with disabilities are active members of society and have identities beyond their disability. They should be included in all aspects of daily life and extended common courtesies when interacting with them.
It is appropriate to shake hands with a person who has a disability, even if they have limited use of their hands or wear an artifical limb.
When talking with a person who has a disability speak directly to that person rather than a companion or interpreter.
Ignore guide dogs or other service animals. Don't pet them...they are working.
If you offer to help, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen or ask for instructions.
If the person is lip-reading, look directly at him or her. Speak slowly and clearly, but don't exaggerate your lip movements. Make sure you can be seen and keep hands and food away from your mouth.
When greeting a person with a vision disabilty, identify yourself and anyone else who might be with you. Ask, "Shall we shake hands?" Let the person know if you move or need to end the conversation.
Don't worry about using common expressions such as "See ya later," or "Gotta run."
When speaking with someone with mental retardation, use simple, but not childish language.
Give your undivided attention to someone who has difficulty speaking. Ask short questions which require short answers. Don't pretend to understand if you don't.
When speaking with someone who uses a wheelchair, sit down or kneel to place yourself at their eye level. Don't lean on the wheelchair.
Emphasize the person, not the disability
People are not conditions, so don't label them with the name of the condition or as part of a disability group. We don't say "the cancerous," nor should we say "the blind."
Be aware of people with hidden disabilities such as heart disease, AIDS or mental illness.
For more information about services for people with disablilities call: Access Utah Network (800) 333-UTAH (8824) (V/TDD) or (801) 533-INFO (4636) (V/TDD), (801) 363-1347 Disability Law Center.