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Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Use Words With Dignity

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USE WORDS WITH DIGNITY

Basic Guidelines
Make reference to the person first, then the disability. 
For example:  “A person with a disability” rather than a “disabled person.”    

 

The following are words that are affirmative and reflect a positive attitude. These are words with dignity.

 

The following words have strong negative connotations, please do not use.

Disability

Handicap

Person who has multiple sclerosis

Stricken with multiple sclerosis

Person with paraplegia (person with limited or no use of lower limbs)

Para

 

Person with quadriplegia (person with limited or no use of all four limbs)

Quad

 

Person who has cerebral palsy

Spastic

Person who has a speech impairment

Speech defect

Person with a head injury

The head injured

Person with AIDS

AIDS victim

Person who has polio, has arthritis, etc.

Crippled with polio, arthritis, etc.

Person with an intellectual disability

Retard

Person with a learning disability

Dim witted, slow

Person with a mental disorder/mental illness

Mentally ill

Person with an emotional disorder

Crazy

Person who is blind, partially blind/Blind Person

Blind guys, visually impaired*

Person who is deaf/Deaf Person

Deaf and dumb, deaf mute

Person who is hard of hearing

Hearing impaired*

Sign language interpreter

Deaf interpreter

Born with “_________”

Birth defect

Caused by “__________”

Afflicted by

Non-disabled (referring to a non-disabled persons as normal insinuates that disabled persons are not normal)

Normal

Person in a wheelchair

Confined/restricted to a wheelchair**

Person who walks with crutches, a walker, a cane, a limp, etc.

Crippled

Many blind persons and deaf persons consider the words “visually impaired” and “hearing impaired” to be offensive. Blind simply means without the sense or use of sight. Deaf simply means partially or totally unable to hear. They believe these two words describe their situation best. They do not wish to be identified as diminished in strengthor value, which the word “impaired” denotes.

**Crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs are mobility aids. Without the use of these mobility aids, the person may be restricted from participation in their community.

MICHELLE KREFFT, BUSINESS CONSULTANT PHONE: 515-281-0264 CELL:515-664-785 MICHELLE.KREFFT@IOWA.GOV