About People First Language

About People First Language 

About 1 in 4, or 61 million, U.S. adults report having some form of a disability. Disability is part of the human experience, but sometimes people use words or phrases that are insensitive and do not promote understanding, dignity, and respect for people with disabilities.

People-first language is used to communicate appropriately and respectfully with and about an individual with a disability. People-first language emphasizes the person first, not the disability. For example, when referring to a person with a disability, refer to the person first, by using phrases such as, “a person who …”, “a person with …” or, “person who has …”

These are some general tips you can follow:

Tips Use Do not use
Emphasize abilities, not limitations Person who uses a wheelchair Confined or restricted to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound
Person who uses a device to speak Can’t talk, mute
Do not use language that suggests the lack of something Person with a disability Disabled, handicapped
Person of short stature Midget
Person with cerebral palsy Cerebral palsy victim
Person with epilepsy or seizure disorder Epileptic
Person with multiple sclerosis Afflicted by multiple sclerosis
Emphasize the need for accessibility, not the disability Accessible parking or bathroom Handicapped parking or bathroom
Do not use offensive language Person with a physical disability Crippled, lame, deformed, invalid, spastic
Person with an intellectual, cognitive, developmental disability Slow, simple, moronic, defective, afflicted, special person
Person with an emotional or behavioral disability, a mental health impairment, or a psychiatric disability Insane, crazy, psycho, maniac, nuts
Avoid language that implies negative stereotypes Person without a disability Normal person, healthy person
Do not portray people with disabilities as inspirational only because of their disability Person who is successful, productive Has overcome his/her disability, is courageous

Content source:  National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Respectfully Communicating with People with Disabilities