The Arc of Indiana

Donate Now

For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

What Do You Call People with Disabilities?

Men, women, boys, girls, students, mom, Sue’s brother, Mr. Smith, Rosita, a neighbor, employer, coworker, customer, chef, teacher, scientist, athlete, adults, children tourists, retirees, actors, comedians, musicians, blondes, brunettes, SCUBA divers, computer operators, individuals, members, leaders, people, voters, friends or any other word you would use for a person.

People First Language recognizes that individuals with disabilities are – first and foremost – people. It emphasizes each person’s value, individuality, dignity and capabilities. The following examples provide guidance on what terms to use and which ones are inappropriate when talking or writing about people with disabilities. 

Use People First Language

  • people/individuals with disabilities
  • an adult who has a disability
  • a child with a disability
  • a person
  • people/individuals without disabilities
  • typical kids
  • people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities
  • he/she has a cognitive impairment
  • a person who has Down syndrome
  • a person who has autism
  • people with a mental illness
  • a person who has an emotional disability
  • a person with a psychiatric illness/disability
  • a person who has a learning disability
  • a person who is deaf
  • he/she has a hearing impairment/loss
  • a man/woman who is hard of hearing
  • person who is deaf and cannot speak
  • who has a speech disorder
  • uses a communication device
  • uses synthetic speech
  • a person who is blind
  • a person who has a visual impairment
  • man/woman who has low vision
  • a person who has epilepsy
  • people with a seizure disorder
  • a person who uses a wheelchair
  • people who have a mobility impairment
  • a person who walks with crutches
  • a person who has quadriplegia
  • people with paraplegia
  • he/she is of small or short stature
  • he/she has a congenital disability
  • accessible buses, bathrooms, etc.
  • reserved parking for people with disabilities

Instead of Labels that Stereotype and Devalue

  • the handicapped
  • the disabled
  • normal people
  • atypical kids
  • the mentally retarded, retarded people,
  • he/she is retarded, the retarded, moron, idiot, imbecile
  • he/she’s a Downs kid; a Mongoloid; a Mongol
  • autistic
  • the mentally ill
  • the emotionally disturbed
  • is insane, crazy, demented, psycho, a maniac, lunatic
  • he/she is learning disabled
  • the deaf
  • is deaf and dumb
  • mute
  • the blind
  • an epileptic, a victim of epilepsy
  • a person who is wheelchair bound
  • a person who is confined to a wheelchair
  • a cripple
  • a quadriplegic
  • the paraplegic
  • a dwarf or midget
  • he/she has a birth defect
  • handicapped buses, bathrooms, hotel rooms, etc.
  • handicapped parking