Disability Etiquette-Watch your Words


What words do people use towards persons with disabilities?
“The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lighting and the lighting bug”, Mark Twain.

Why use appropriate language?
People with disabilities are our largest minority group, most inclusive – all ages, genders, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations and socioeconomic levels.
Appropriate language:
1. Shapes attitudes and perceptions
2. It help avoid perpetuating old stereotypes

Dos & Don’ts:
• Puts the person before the disability, and describes what a person has, not what a person is
Examples of People First Language
Instead of… Say…
• He’s Do He Has Down Syndrome
• She’s Learning Disabled She Has A Learning Disability
• Normal Or Healthy Kids Typical Kids / Kids Without Disabilities
• Birth Defect Congenital Disability
• Brain Damage Brain Injury
• He’s autistic He has autism
• She’s confined to a wheelchair She uses a wheelchair
• He’s retarded He has an intellectual disability
• Handicapped Parking Accessible parking
• He is a quadriplegic or crippled He has a physical disability

• A wheelchair, cane, or any other assistive device used to help a person with a disability is considered part of their personal space and should never be leaned on, picked up, or touched.

• When in doubt about offering assistance to a person with a disability, ask “may I help you with that?” If they need help, they will accept it. If they do not, do not take offense. Maybe they are learning a new technique for completing a task, or maybe they just want to see if they can do it. Never just help without asking.

• Treat adults in a manner befitting adults, regardless of their disability. Call a person by his or her first name only when extending familiarity to all others present. Do not patronize people with disabilities by patting them on the head or hand, or by talking to them in baby talks or touching them.