Person-First Language

Child swings from hanging barAdults and children with disabilities are people first, just like everybody else. When you talk to them or about them, talk about who they are instead of their disability. Talk about what they can do instead of what they can't. Avoid condescension by lavishing people with disabilities with praise and attention. Independence is important, so let people with disabilities do and say as much as possible without your help.

The PACER Center provides these tips:

It's the Person First, Then the Disability (2005),



Instead of...

  • child with a disability
  • person with cerebral palsy
  • person who is deaf or hard of hearing
  • person with a cognitive or intellectual disability
  • person with epilepsy or person with seizure disorder
  • person who has...
  • without speech, nonverbal
  • developmental delay
  • emotional disorder or mental illness
  • uses a wheelchair
  • with Down syndrome
  • has a learning disability
  • developing typically
  • has a physical disability
  • congenital disability
  • condition
  • seizures
  • cleft lip
  • mobility impaired
  • medically involved, has a chronic illness
  • paralyzed
  • has hemiplegia (paralysis of one side of the body)
  • has quadriplegia (paralysis of both arms and legs)
  • has paraplegia (loss of function in lower body only)
  • of short stature
  • accessible parking
  • disabled or handicapped child
  • C.P., spastic
  • deaf and dumb
  • mentally retarded, retard
  • epileptic
  • afflicted, suffers from, victim
  • mute, dumb
  • slow
  • crazy, insane, mentally ill
  • confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound
  • mongoloid, retard
  • is learning disabled
  • normal, healthy
  • crippled
  • birth defect
  • disease (unless it is a disease)
  • fits or spells
  • hare lip
  • lame
  • sickly
  • invalid or paralytic
  • hemiplegic
  • quadriplegic
  • paraplegic
  • dwarf or midget
  • handicapped parking

(Photo courtesy of Kompan)