Words matter!

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:

    SAY:                                                                                               INSTEAD OF: 

 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!