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Words with Dignity (A Way with Words)

General Guidelines

Terms

Resources

General Guidelines

Language plays a powerful and important role in shaping ideas and perceptions. Sensitivity in how we present information relating to people with disabilities can go a long way in overcoming the most difficult barrier to full integration and accepting attitudes.

When possible, emphasize the uniqueness and worth of the whole individual by saying a person who has a disability, rather than disabled persons.

Because people are not conditions, do not label individuals as the disabled, the epileptics, the post-polios, etc. Say instead, people who have disabilities, have epilepsy, have had polio, etc.

The terminology used for activities of daily living need not change. People in wheelchairs dance or go for walks, blind people look, deaf people listen. Disabilities may just require that some things be done in a different manner.

(From: "Portraying People with Disabilities: Suggested Guidelines for People in the Media" a pamphlet published by the British Columbia Rehabilitation Society and "Words With Dignity" published by the Ontario March of Dimes).

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Terms

Choose words that carry non-judgmental connotations and that are accurate descriptions. Avoid using words such as the following:

Afflicted by, afflicted with - instead say the person has.

Cripple, crippled, the crippled - instead say the person with a disability, or individual with a disability caused by or as a result of.

Invalid (literally means not valid) - instead say a person who has a disability resulting from or caused by.

Learning Disabled, Visually impaired - instead say person with a learning disability, person with low vision or blind.

Normal - this is what most people, including those with disabilities, think they are.

Victim - instead say person who has, person who experienced, person with.

Wheelchair bound, confined to wheelchair - instead say person who uses a wheelchair or scooter.

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Resources

International Classifications of Functioning and Disability

A Way with Words and Images

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