disabilities language

In general, follow AP Style. Do not describe an individual as having a disability unless it is clearly pertinent. If a description must be used, be specific about the type of disability or symptoms. An ad featuring actor Michael J. Fox swaying noticeably from the effects of Parkinson’s disease drew nationwide attention.

Avoid descriptions that connote pity, such as afflicted with, battling or suffers from multiple sclerosis, or overcame his disability. Rather, has multiple sclerosis, was able to walk again. Avoid clichés such as inspiring and brave. Do not use handicap in describing a disability.

Ask people how they prefer to be described (when the description is relevant). Some, for example, refer to themselves as a disabled person or simply disabled, using identity-first language. Others prefer person with a disability, using person-first language. In describing groups of people, use person-first language. 

The terms blind, deaf and mute describe total or major loss of sight, hearing and speech. For others, use visually impaired or person with low vision; use partial hearing loss or partially deaf. Avoid using deaf-mute. Do not use deaf and dumb. Some object to the term hearing-impaired; try to determine an individual’s preference. Others with speaking difficulties are speech-impaired. In all cases ask a person’s preference.

disabled A general term used for a physical, mental, developmental or intellectual disability.

Wheelchair user: People use wheelchairs for independent mobility. Do not use confined to a wheelchair or wheelchair-bound. If reference to a wheelchair is necessary and relevant, say why.

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