Upon completing this unit you should be able to:
1. Define acceptable and preferred disability terms
2. Recognize unacceptable terms
3. Describe the rules to determine if terms are appropriate
4. Explain negative and positive phrases
5. Recognize disability access symbols
6. Accept and value people first language
Listed below are acceptable and preferred terms that reflect a positive attitude in portraying disabilities. The general terms disability and handicap are described first, but remaining terms are listed alphabetically. The following terms refer to conditions, not people.
Disability (Disabled, Physically Disabled) - General term used for a (semi) permanent condition that interferes with a persons ability to do something independently -- walk, see, hear, learn, lift. It may refer to a physical, mental, or sensory condition. Preferred usage is as a descriptive noun or adjective, as in people who are disabled or people with disabilities.
Amputation - A condition lacking all or parts of one or more limbs.
Blindness - A condition resulting in a total loss of eyesight. Not appropriate for people with partial vision. Use partially sighted, with partial vision, or visually impaired.
Cerebral Palsy - A condition resulting from damage to the brain before, during or after birth. The person with cerebral palsy lacks muscle control; movement can be exaggerated and/or uncontrollable.
Congenital Disability - Describes a disability that has existed since birth. The term birth defect is not appropriate. This condition includes mental retardation, head injuries, learning disabilities, strokes.
Deaf / Profoundly Deaf - A condition resulting in a total loss of hearing. Not appropriate for people with partial hearing. Use partial hearing or hearing impaired.
Developmental Disability - Describes any mental and/or physical disability incurred before the age of 22 that may continue indefinitely. The disability may substantially limit major activities and require lifelong support. Term includes individuals with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, downs syndrome, spina bifida, learning disabilities, sensory impairments, mental illness, congenital disabilities, traumatic accidents or other disease processes.
Dwarfism - A condition of arrested growth; characterized by exceptionally short body length, specifically with unusually short arms or legs.
Hemiplegia - A condition resulting in a total or partial paralysis of one side of the body that results from disease of or injury to the motor centers of the brain.
Quadriplegia - A condition whereas an individual is affected with paralysis of both arms and both legs.
Paraplegia - A condition whereas an individual is affected with paralysis to the lower half of the body with involvement of both legs.
Physically Challenged - used at times to portray a positive light, but it is viewed by many people with disabilities to be condescending and to unnecessarily sugar coat the fact of a disability.
Spastic - Describes a muscle with sudden, abnormal involuntary spasms. It is not appropriate for describing a person with cerebral palsy. Muscles are spastic, not people.
Special - Describes that which is different or uncommon about any person. Except when citing laws or regulations, it is not an appropriate term to describe people with disabilities in general.
Spina Bifida - A condition resulting from a birth defect that occurs early in a pregnancy. It is sometimes referred to as split or open spine. Nerve damage occurs as a result of the improperly formed spine, affecting muscle function and sensation.
Spinal Cord Injury - An injury to the spinal cord resulting from an accident, such as automobile, gunshot, or diving. Depending on the level of injury, impairment of the following functions is often present: walking, changing positions, dressing, eating, writing, driving a car, personal hygiene (bathing, grooming, going to the restroom), or other functions. Spinal cord injuries can result in paralysis of one or more extremities. People with spinal cord injuries who become paraplegics, have limited or no function of the lower body. Sometimes spinal cord injuries result in quadriplegia, paralysis or some degree of both arms and both legs.
Visually Impaired - A condition resulting in a partial loss of vision. Use partially sighted, with partial vision, or visually impaired.
The following terms are unacceptable
and should be avoided when referring to people with disabilities because
the terms have negative connotations and tend to evoke pity.
The terms to avoid are:
Cripple, cripples - the image conveyed is of a twisted, deformed, useless body.
Handicap, handicapped person or handicapped - Often used as a synonym for disability. However, usage has become less acceptable (one origin is from the phrase cap in hand, as in begging). Except when citing laws or regulations, handicap should not be used to describe a disability. The real handicaps are the attitudinal and architectural barriers erected by our society. Say, The stairs are a handicap for her, but not The handicapped child could not use the stairs.
Cerebral Palsied, Spinal Cord Injured, etc. - Never identify people solely by their disability.
Victim - People with disabilities do not like to be perceived as victims for the rest of their lives.
Defective, Defect, Deformed, Vegetable, Abnormal, Crazy, Disfigured, Fits, Maimed, Pathetic, Pitiful, Slow, Moron, Imbecile, Idiot.- These words are offensive, dehumanizing, degrading and stigmatizing.
Deaf and Dumb is as bad as it sounds, the inability to hear or speak does not indicate intelligence.
Confined/Restricted to a Wheelchair; Wheelchair Bound - Most people who use a wheelchair or mobility devices do not regard them as confining. They are viewed as liberating; a means of getting around.
Healthy, when used to contrast with disabled. Healthy implies that the person with a disability is unhealthy. Many people with disabilities have excellent health.
Normal - When used as the opposite of disabled, this implies that the person is abnormal. No one wants to be labeled as abnormal.
Afflicted With, Suffers From - Most people with disabilities do not regard themselves afflicted or suffering continually.
Affliction - a disability is not an affliction, although an affliction may have caused the disability.
Invalid - According to Websters Collegiate Dictionary, the term means not valid
Burden, Birth Defect, Deaf Mute , Differently Abled, Incapacitated, Insane, Stricken With, Tragedy, Unfortunate, Retarded, These terms are also offensive to people who bear the label.
Rules to remember in determining if terms or phrases are appropriate
The most valuable commodity of today's society is information; to a person with a disability it is essential. For example, the symbol may be used on signage or on a floor plan to indicate the location of the information or security desk, where there is more specific information or materials concerning access accommodations and services such as "LARGE PRINT" materials, audio cassette recordings of materials, or sign interpreted tours.
2. International Symbol of Accessibility:
The wheelchair symbol should only be used to indicate access for individuals with limited mobility, including wheelchair users. For example, the symbol is used to indicate an accessible entrance, bathroom or that a phone is lowered for wheelchair users. Remember that a ramped entrance is not completely accessible if there are no curb cuts, and an elevator is not accessible if it can only be reached via steps.
3. Live Audio Description:
A service for people who are blind or have low vision that makes the performing and visual arts more accessible. A trained Audio Describer offers live commentary or narration (via headphones and a small transmitter) consisting of concise, objective descriptions of visual elements: for example, a theater performance or a visual arts exhibition at a museum.
4. Audio Description for TV, Video and Film:
This service makes television, video, and film more accessible for persons who are blind or have low vision. Description of visual elements is provided by a trained Audio Describer through the Secondary Audio Program (SAP) of televisions and monitors equipped with stereo sound. An adapter for non-stereo TVs is available through the American Foundation for the Blind, (800)829-0500.
5. Accessible Print:
The symbol for large print is "Large Print" printed in 18 Point or larger text. In addition to indicating that large print versions of books, pamphlets, museum guides and theater programs are available, you may use the symbol on conference or membership forms to indicate that print materials may be provided in large print. Sans serif or modified serif print with good contrast is highly recommended, and special attention should be paid to letter and word spacing.
6. Access (Other Than Print or Braille) for Individuals Who are Blind or Have Low Vision:
This symbol may be used to indicate access for people who are blind or have low vision, including: a guided tour, a path to a nature trail or a scent garden in a park; and a tactile tour or a museum exhibition that may be touched.
7. Braille Symbol:
This symbol indicates that printed matter is available in Braille, including exhibition labeling, publications and signage.
8. Telephone Typewriter (TTY):
Also known as text telephone (TT), or telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), TTY indicates a telephone device used with the telephone (and the phone number) for communication between deaf, hard of hearing, speech-impaired and/or hearing persons.
9. Sign Language Interpretation:
The symbol indicates that Sign Language Interpretation is provided for a lecture, tour, performance, conference or other program.
10. Assistive Listening Systems:
These systems transmit sound via hearing aids or head sets. They include infrared, loop and FM systems. Portable systems may be available from the same audiovisual equipment suppliers that service conferences and meetings.
11. Volume Control Telephone:
This symbol indicates the location of telephones that have handsets with amplified sound and/or adjustable volume controls.
12. Closed Captioning (CC):
Thanks to our own Senator Tom Harkin, this symbol indicates that a television program or videotape is closed captioned for deaf or hard of hearing persons (and others). TV sets that have a built-in or a separate decoder are equipped to display dialogue for programs that are captioned. The Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 requires new TV sets (with screens 13" or larger) to have built-in decoders as of July, 1993. Also, videos that are part of exhibitions may be closed captioned using the symbol with instructions to press a button for captioning. The alternative would be open captioning, which translates dialogue and other sounds in print.
To achieve Inclusion, Community, and Freedom for people with disabilities, we must use PEOPLE FIRST LANGUAGE.
A commentary by Kathie Snow
"The difference between
the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning
and the lightning bug."
Who are they, really?
They are moms and dads and
sons and daughters . . . employees and employers . . . scientists (Stephen
Hawking) . . . friends and neighbors . . . movie stars (Marlee Matlin)
. . . leaders and followers . . . students and teachers . . . they are
beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.
is a natural part of the human experience...
Disability is not the problem.
The real problems are attitudinal
and environmental barriers.
If employersand our society at largebelieved adults with disabilities have valuable job skills and can contribute to the success of a business, we wouldnt have to fight for real jobs for real pay in the real community.
If business ownersand our society at largeviewed people with disabilities as consumers with money to spend, we wouldnt have to fight for accessible entrances and other accommodations.
In our society, handicapped and disabled are all-encompassing terms that are misused.
Its time we understand the power of language.
When we misuse words, we reinforce the barriers created by negative and stereotypical attitudes. When we refer to people with disabilities by medical diagnoses, we devalue and disrespect them as members of the human race. Disability labels are simply sociopolitical terms that provide a passport to services. For too long, labels have been used to define the value and potential of people who are labeled.
People will live up (or down) to our expectations. If we expect people with disabilities to succeed, we cannot let labels stand in their way. We must not let labels destroy the hopes and dreams of people with disabilities and their families.
can be defined as a body function
Contrast that meaning with: the origin of handicap, from the dictionary, which refers to hand in cap, a game where the losing player was considered to be at a disadvantage; and a legendary origin of the word which refers to a person with a disability having to beg on the street with cap in hand.
Disabled, or People with Disabilities:
Using handicapped, and even disabled, typically evokes negative feelings (sadness, pity, fear, and more) and creates a stereotypical perception that people with disabilities are all alike. All people who have brown hair are not alike. All people who have disabilities are not alike. In fact, people with disabilities are more like people without disabilities than different!
The disability community is the largest minority group in our nation, and its all inclusive! It includes people of both genders and of all ages, as well as individuals from all religions, ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic levels. About the only things people with disabilities have in common with one another are 1) having a body part that is different and 2) facing prejudice and discrimination. Unique to the disability community is that its the only minority group that anyone can join in the split second of an accident.
Many people who do not now have a disability will have one in the future. Others will have a family member or friend who acquires 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 everyone!
Using People First Language
is a crucial issue.
Children with disabilities are children, first. The only labels they need are their names! Parents must not talk about their children in the clinical terms used by medical practitioners. A parent of a child who wears glasses (medical diagnosis: myopia) doesnt say, My daughter is myopic, so why does the parent of a child who has a medical diagnosis of autism say, My daughter is autistic.?
Adults with disabilities are adults, first. The only labels they need are their names! They must not talk about themselves the way service providers talk about them. An adult with a medical diagnosis of cancer doesnt say, Im cancerous, so why does an adult with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy say, Im disabled.?
My son, Benjamin, is 14 years old. He loves Star Wars, pretzels, and playing on the computer; he collects Pez candy dispensers. He has blond hair, blue eyes, and cerebral palsy. His disability is only one characteristic of his whole persona. He is not his diagnosis, and his potential cannot be defined by his disability label. In fact, among friends and family, and in typical settings, a persons disability should be irrelevant! Disability labels should only be used within the service system; they have no place in the real world!
When I introduce myself to people, I dont tell them Ill never be a prima ballerina. Like others, I focus on my strengths, not on what I cant do. Dont you do the same? I dont say, My son cant write with a pencil. I say, My son uses a computer to write. I dont say, My son cant walk. I say, My son uses a wheelchair. How can you change the language you use about yourself or others with disabilities?
A persons self-image is strongly tied to the words used to describe the person. For generations, people with disabilities have been described in negative, stereotypical language that has created mythical portrayals about them. Over time, these myths have taken on the power of truths, when theyre actually lies. We must all believe people with disabilities are real people with unlimited potential, just like all people. We must stop believing the mythsthe liesof labels.
We have the power to create new truths about people with disabilities. Using People First Language can influence societys views and treatment of people with disabilities.
it time for us to make this change?
Benjamin goes ballistic when he hears handicapped. I hope when hes grown, labels will be extinct. People First Language is right. Just do itNOW!
1. Match the following disability terms to their associated
A. ___Amputation (1) A condition whereas an individual is
affected with paralysis of both arms
and both legs.
B. ___Cerebral Palsy (2) A condition resulting in a partial
loss of vision.
C. ___Dwarfism (3) A condition lacking all or parts of
one or more limbs.
D. ___Quadriplegia (4) A condition whereas an individual is
affected with paralysis to the lower
half of the body with involvement of
E. ___Paraplegia (5) A condition of arrested growth;
characterized by exceptionally short
body length, specifically with
unusually short arms or legs.
F. ___Visually Impaired (6) A condition resulting from damage to
the brain before, during or after
birth. The person lacks muscle
control and movement can be
exaggerated and/or uncontrollable.
2. Which one (1) of the following terms is unacceptable because the
disability does NOT indicate intelligence?
C. Suffers from
D. Deaf and Dumb
3. Which one (1) of the following is NOT a rule to determine if
terms are appropriate?
A. Do not use outdated or derogatory terms in relation to a
B. When necessary, include terms and phrases that infer how a
person feels about the disability.
C. Make sure NOT to use terms that make judgments about the
persons disability or condition.
D. Avoid terms or phrases that define someone by their
disability rather than describe ones condition or situation.
4. Which one (1) of the following statements BEST describes
People First Language?
A. It puts the person before the disability.
B. Paraplegics are heroes who struggle to become normal again.
C. Reminds us that people suffer from the tragedy of
D. Individuals with disabilities are victims who fight to overcome
5. Which one (1) of the following symbols represents a service that
makes television, video, and film more accessible for persons who
are blind or have low vision. Description of visual elements is
provided by trained individuals through the Secondary Audio
Program (SAP) of televisions and monitors equipped with stereo