Who are the so-called “handicapped?”

Society’s myths tell us they are:

  • “People who suffer from the tragedy of birth defects.”
  • “Paraplegic heroes who struggle to become normal again.”
  • “Victims who fight to overcome their conditions.”
  • “The so-called disabled, retarded, autistic, blind, deaf, learning disabled, and more.”

Who are they, really?

They are:

  • Moms and dads
  • Sons and daughters
  • Employees and employers
  • Friends and neighbors
  • Leaders and followers
  • Students and teachers

They are people!    They are people, first.

Using People First Language is a crucial issue.

People First Language puts the person before the disability!  The Disability Rights Movement is following in the footsteps of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the Women’s Movement of the 1970s.  While people with disabilities and advocates work to end discrimination and segregation in education, employment, and our communities at large, we must all work to eliminate the prejudicial language that creates an invisible barrier to inclusion in the mainstream of our society.

Examples of People First Language:

People with disabilities Handicapped or disabled
He has a cognitive or intellectual disability He is mentally retarded
She has autism She is autistic
He has Down Syndrome He is Downs or Mongoloid
She has a learning disability She is learning disabled
He has a physical disability He is a quadriplegic or crippled
She is of short stature or she is a little person She is a dwarf  (or midget)
He has an emotional disability He is emotionally disturbed
She uses a wheelchair She is confined to a wheelchair
He receives Special Education services He is Special Ed
Typical kids or kids without disabilities Normal or healthy kids
Accessible parking Handicapped parking
Accessible restroom Handicapped restroom
ADA accessible hotel room Handicapped hotel room


Unique to the disability community is that it is the only minority group that any American can join in the split second of an accident.

If it happens to you, will you have more in common with others with disabilities or with your family, friends, and co-workers?  Many people who do not now have a disability may have one in the future.  Others will have family members or friends who acquire a disability.  If you acquire a disability in your lifetime, how will you want to be described?  How will you want to be treated?  Disability issues are issues that affect all Americans!

“Disability is a natural part of the human experience…”