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Proper Language Words like handicapped wheelchairbound and polio victim may sound neutral or sympathetic but people with disabilities find them patronizing and offensive The language people and news organizations use can reinforce negative stereotypes and misconceptions Or they can help change attitudes toward people with disabilities by describing them and their conditions accurately Below are six general rules for writing or talking about people with disabilities followed by tips on interacting and a short glossary of outdated terms and suggested alternatives Many of the new terms are slightly longer but using them will help avoid being perceived as insensitive or behind the times PEOPLE WITH DISABILTIES Handicapped has a negative connotation for many people so most social service agencies and news organizations now use person with a disability Handicap describes a condition or barrier caused by society or the environment ie She is handicapped by inaccessible transportation or stairs are a handicap to him PERSON FIRST The person precedes the disability both figuratively and literally Its people with disabilities not disabled persons and person with cerebral palsy not cerebral palsy victim AVOID PITY People with disabilities arent victims As one woman who uses a wheelchair noted Im not a wheelchair victim Wheelchair victims are the people I bump into with my footrest at the supermarket Nor should people be described as inspirational or courageous just beecause they have a disability ADJECTIVES ARENT NOUNS Use an adjective as a description not a category or group ie people who are disabled not the disabled and person with epilepsy not an epileptic AVOID BEING CUTE Terms like physically challenged special and differently- abled are patronizing If appropriate note that a person has a physical sensory or mental impairment and leave it at that Also people without disabilities arent normal because that infers that people with disabilities are abnormal Rather they are non-disabled or able-bodied GERMANENESS People with disabilities should be treated just like everyone else You wouldnt
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