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People First Language (PFL) puts the term "person" before the disabling condition. PFL describes what the person has, not what he/she is. This allows the person to be defined as an individual rather than defined by a label. Labels degrade, evoke negative stereotypes and do not address individuality. A disability is just one part of the unique individual. Changing the language we use may influence the perceptions society has of people with disabilities. The chart below outlines appropriate language when addressing or discussing a person with a disability.

Appropriate People First Language
Instead of: Use:
The handicapped, the disabled Person with a disability, people with disabilities
Normal, healthy, whole, able-bodied Person without a disability, people without disabilities, non-disabled
Wheelchair bound, confined to a wheelchair Person who uses a wheelchair, wheelchair user
Mentally retarded, a retard Person with an intellectual disability, people who have an intellectual disability
Mental, mental case, crazy, psycho, nut case Person with mental illness, people who have a mental/emotional disorder
Crippled, lame Person with an orthopedic disability, person with a disability
Birth defect Person with a congenital disability
Victim of cerebral palsy or other condition Person who has cerebral palsy or other condition
Mongoloid Person with Down's Syndrome
Epileptic, epileptic fits

 

Person who has epilepsy, epileptic episode/event
The blind, blind as a bat Person who is blind/visually impaired
Deaf and dumb, deaf-mute Person who is deaf or hard of hearing, the deaf, person who does not speak
Tongue-tied, mute Person with a speech or communication disability

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