We should remember that words we use can hurt or be demeaning. It’s why responsible communicators are now choosing language which reflects the dignity of people with disabilities – words that put the person first, rather than the disability.

Think people first. Say “a woman who has a disability” rather than “a disabled woman.”

Avoid words like “unfortunate,” “afflicted,” and “victim.” Also, try to avoid casting a person with a disability as a superhuman model of courage. People with disabilities are just people, not tragic figures or demigods.

A developmental disability is not a disease. Do not mention “symptoms,” “patients,” or “treatment,” unless the person you’re describing has an illness as well as a disability.

Use common sense. Avoid terms with obvious negative or judgmental connotations, such as “crippled,” “deaf and dumb,” “lame,” and “defective.” If you aren’t sure how to refer to a person’s condition, ask. And, if the disability is not relevant to your conversation, why mention it at all?

Never refer to a person as “confined to a wheelchair.” Wheelchairs enable people to escape confinement. A person with a mobility impairment “uses” a wheelchair.

Try to describe people without disabilities as “typical” rather than “normal.”