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What is "People First" Language?

People first language emphasizes the individuality, equality and dignity of people with disabilities. Rather than defining people primarily by their disability, people first language focuses on the person and conveys respect. Below are examples of the appropriate use of people first language.

Affirmative Phrases Negative Phrases
person with an intellectual, cognitive, developmental disability retarded
mentally defective
person who is blind
person who is visually impaired
the blind
person with a disability the disabled
handicapped
person who is deaf the deaf
deaf and dumb
person who is hard of hearing suffers a hearing loss
person who has multiple sclerosis afflicted by MS
person with cerebral palsy CP victim
person with epilepsy
person with a seizure disorder
epileptic
person who uses a wheelchair wheelchair bound
confined to a wheelchair
person who has muscular dystrophy stricken by MD
person with a physical disability crippled
lame
deformed
person who is unable to speak
person who uses synthetic speech
dumb
mute
person with a psychiatric disability crazy
nuts
person who is successful, productive

has overcome his/her disability
is courageous (when it implies the person has courage because of having a disability)

person who is in recovery from a substance abuse disorder

addict

Page last updated on Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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