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), http://www.pacer.org/parent/php/PHP-c31.pdf

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

(Photo courtesy of Kompan)