19.3.1 Appropriate and inappropriate terms
In your daily work it is important to keep the following guidelines in mind:
- When describing a person, focus on their abilities and actions rather than their limitations, and avoids words that imply that they are passive ‘objects’ rather than active subjects. Expressions like ‘she uses a wheelchair’ or ‘he is partially sighted’ are preferred to terms such as ‘confined to a wheelchair’ or ‘partially blind’.
- Avoid ‘sensationalising’ an impairment by using expressions such as ‘afflicted with’, ‘victim of’, ‘suffering from’, and so on (see also Table 19.1).
- Emphasise the individual, rather than the impairment, by saying, for example, ‘a person with paraplegia’, instead of ‘a paraplegic’ or ‘a paraplegic person’. For the same reason, avoid grouping individuals into generic categories through expressions like the deaf, the blind, etc.
- When talking about places or buildings designed to overcome the barriers faced by people with disabilities, use the term ‘accessible’ (e.g. ‘an accessible parking space’) rather than ‘parking for the disabled’ or ‘for the handicapped’.
- Finally, people without disabilities should not be referred to as ‘normal’, ‘healthy’ or ‘able-bodied’. People with disabilities are not – as such expressions suggest – ‘abnormal’, ‘sick’ or ‘unable’.
It is appropriate for you to continue using words such as ‘see’, ‘look’, ‘walk’, ‘listen’, when talking to people with various disabilities, even if the person is, for example, partially sighted or uses a wheelchair or hearing aid.
|Inappropriate use||Appropriate use|
The disabled, the handicapped
People with disabilities
Cripple, physically handicapped or wheelchair bound.
A person with a physical disability/impairment or wheelchair user
A person with cerebral palsy
Deaf and dumb
A person with hearing and speech impairments
People who are blind, or partially sighted, or visually impaired people
People who are deaf, or hearing-impaired people