16. Confined to a wheelchair: Do not use “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair-bound”. Instead, use “person who uses a wheelchair” or “wheelchair-user”. Unless mentioning the wheelchair is essential to the story, leave it out. Avoid using phrases like “wheelchair-rider”, “vertically challenged” and similar terms.
19. Congenital disability: A person who has a “congenital disability” has a disability since birth. Avoid the term “defect”, “birth defect” or “defective” when describing a disability. Use “has a congenital disability”, “a disability since birth” or “born with a disability”. Only mention the disability when it is pertinent to the story.
18. Cripple, crippled, crippled with: Do not use these terms to describe a person with disability. Much like the way some racial derogatory terms are used, some people with disabilities have taken “cripple” shortened it to “crip” which is used as an “insider”term to refer to other people with disabilities. Some people who use “crip” identify with being a part of “disability culture”. However, other people with disabilities find “cripple” in any form, offensive. The basic guideline, then, is to avoid using it altogether.
19. Deaf: Capitalize when a person identifies as culturally deaf. Use as an adjective, not as a noun. Describe a person with profound or complete hearing loss. Many people who are “hard of hearing” or “hearing impaired” have a mild to moderate hearing loss that may or may not be corrected with amplification. “Hearing impaired”, “hard of hearing”, “hearing loss”, “partial hearing loss”, and “partially deaf” are some terms used by some individuals to indicate varying degrees of hearing loss from mild to profound. Currently there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term to use. Use: “woman/man who is deaf”, “boy who is hard of hearing”, “individuals with hearing losses”, “people who are deaf or hard of hearing”. Avoid “deaf and dumb” and “the deaf-mute”.
20. Deaf-dumb, deaf-mute: Avoid these terms. These terms refer to a person who does not hear and does not use speech to communicate. “Dumb” originally referred to a person who could not speak, and implied the person was incapable of expressing him or herself. People who are deaf or do not use speech are capable of expressing themselves, but in a different language like Indian Sign Language (ISL), and American Sign Language (ASL). A person who does not have voice may be able to hear.
21. Defect, defective: Avoid using this term to describe a disability. An offensive example is “she suffers from a defective leg”. Instead use “she has a disability” or “she is a person with orthopaedic disability”.
22. Deformed: Best is to name the disability.
23. Developmental disabilities: This phrase was generated from the Developmental Disabilities Act. It is an umbrella term that is often generalised to mean more than the federal and/or state legal definitions. The legal definitions can vary from state to state. The term generally is used to refer to individuals whose disability affect development acquired at birth or childhood. One of the definitions is “Developmental disabilities are chronic mental and/or physical disabilities which manifest before the age of 18 and result in functional limitations in at least three of the following areas of life activity: self-care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. Individuals with developmental disabilities require lifelong or extended individual supports. Conditions include, but are not limited to autism, mental retardation, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.”
24. Disability, disabled: General term used for functional limitations that limits one or more of the major life activities such as walking, lifting, learning, breathing, etc. Different Acts/Laws define disability differently in different countries. Persons with Disabilities, Act, 1995 defines disability clearly. When describing an individual do not include their disability unless it is clearly pertinent to the story. If it is, it is best to use ‘people first’ language, for example: “The writer, who has a disability…” as opposed to “The disabled writer “.
25. Disfigurement: Disfigurement refers to physical changes caused by burns, trauma, disease, or congenital conditions. Do not say burn victim. Say burn survivor, or adult with burns, or child with burns.
26. Down Syndrome: Not “Down’s” for the genetic, chromosomal disorder first reported in 1866 by Dr. J. Langdon Down. Preferred language is “Person with Down Syndrome” not “Down Syndrome child”. Do not use “mongoloid”. A syndrome is not a disease or illness. It is not contagious.
29. Dumb: This term originally referred to a person who could not speak, and implied the person was incapable of expressing himself or herself. For example, he or she may use the writing or a different language like Indian Sign Language. A person who does not have voice may be able to hear. Hence all the deaf persons are not dumb. “Dumb” is also a derogatory term to refer to someone with perceived low intellectual ability.
28. Dwarf: Avoid the term unless a quote or in a medical diagnosis. This is a medical term applied to people who are of “short stature”. Avoid medical model terms when describing the experience of living with a disability. Instead use: “short stature” or “little person/people”. Best is to ask the person which term to use.
29. Ear mould: An acrylitic material device to enable the amplified sound to reach the ear without any leakage of sound. It helps the user of hearing aid to fit the receiver into the ear properly.
30. Fit: This term refers to a seizure or a person having a seizure. It is more accurate to use the term “seizure”. “Fit” or “throwing a fit” in colloquial English often implies a person is acting “spoiled” or “out of control” because they are not getting what they want.
31. Guide dogs: Currently there is no uniform terminology. Animals, mostly dogs, can provide services to a person with a disability, including but not limited to, fetching objects for those who use wheelchairs, providing visual clues for those who are blind or alerting deaf individuals to household audio clues.
32. Handicap/handicapped: Handicap/handicapped should be avoided in describing a disablity. It can be used when citing laws and situations in courts.
33. Hard of hearing, hearing impaired: Many people who are “hard of hearing” or “hearing impaired” have a mild to moderate hearing loss that may or may not be corrected with amplification. “Hearing impaired”, “hard of hearing”, “hearing loss”, “partial hearing loss” and “partially deaf” are some terms used by some individuals to indicate varying degrees of hearing loss from mild to profound. Currently there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term to use.
34. Hearing aid: An electronic device used as an amplification device by persons with hearing disability.
35. Hearing aid user: A person who uses hearing aid. There are various types of hearing aids such as behind the ear, body level, in the ear and in the canal.
36. HIV/AIDS: Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome is an infectious disease resulting in the loss of the body’s immune system to ward off infections. The disease is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A positive test for HIV can occur without symptoms of the illnesses that usually develop up to 10 years later including tuberculosis, recurring pneumonia, cancer, recurrent vaginal yeast infections, intestinal ailments, chronic weakness and fever, and profound weight loss. Don’t say AIDS victim. Say people living with HIV, people with AIDS or living with AIDS.
39. Impairment: The term `impairment’ refers to individually based, functional limitation whether physical, intellectual, sensory or hidden.
38. Infantile paralysis: This disability is more commonly known as “polio”. It is the more accurate term. “He has polio since childhood” or “she contracted polio as an adult from a vaccine”. Rather than “He suffers from polio”.
39. Injuries: Injuries are “sustained” or “received” not “suffered”.
40. Invalid: This term should not be used to describe a person with disability. The word implies that a person has no abilities and no sense of self, whereas for the vast majority of persons with disabilities, this is rarely the case.
41. Indian Sign Language (ISL): It is the mother tongue of the Indian Deaf community. A language used by the deaf community in India for communication. Presently, Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped, Mumbai has initiated steps to envisage development and research in ISL.
42. Indian Signed System (ISS): It is different from Indian Sign Language (ISL). In Indian Signed System, word to word signs are used for interpretation. But the deaf community in India finds it difficult to understand the interpretation using ISS.
43. Lame: Avoid using when referring to a person. Some people with and without disabilities are also offended when the term “lame” is used in colloquial English like “lame excuse”.
44. Learning disability: Learning disability describes a permanent condition that affects the way individuals take in, retain, and express information. Some groups prefer specific learning disability, because it emphasizes that only certain learning processes are affected. Do not say slow learner, retarded, etc., which are different from learning disabilities. Say person with a learning disability.
45. Loon, loony, loony bin: Taken from the term “lunatic”, a derivative of that word referring to an individual seeking therapy, assisted living situations, or mental health fitness is considered a derogatory term.
46. Low vision: Describes a person with some vision which they sometimes use in combination with canes, dogs and other low vision aids. Using the term “blind” for someone with “low vision” or who is “partially sighted” is inaccurate. Currently, there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term to use.
49. Mental disability: The Federal Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) lists four categories under mental disability, psychiatric disability, retardation, learning disability, or cognitive impairment as acceptable terms. Always precede these terms with, “person with…”.
48. Mental retardation: Mental retardation refers to substantial intellectual delay that requires environmental or personal supports to live independently. Mental retardation is manifested by below-average intellectual functioning in two or more life areas (work, education, daily living, etc.) and is present before the age of 18. Don’t use subnormal or the retarded. Say people with mental retardation.
49. Midget: Midget is a derogatory term for people of “short stature” or “little people/person”.
50. Mute: Mute is a derogatory term referring to a person who cannot speak. Avoid using this term. It also implies that people who do not use speech are unable to express themselves, which is not true.
51. Multiple chemical sensitivities: Multiple chemical sensitivities describes a chronic condition characterized by neurological impairment, muscle pain and weakness, respiratory problems and gastrointestinal complaints triggered by contact with low level exposure to common substances including pesticides, new carpet, particleboard, cleaning agents, and perfumes. Some people react to foods and electromagnetic fields. Do not use psychosomatic or 20th Century disease. Say person with chemical intolerance or environmental illness.
52. Non-disabled (also see “able-bodied”): Non-disabled refers to a person who does not have a disability. Can also use “does not have a disability”.
53. Nuts: Derogatory term referring to someone with a psychiatric disability.
54. Paraplegic: Sometimes people with paraplegia (or who are paraplegic) will refer to themselves as a “para”. If so, use in quotes. Otherwise, spell out.
55. Partially sighted (also see “blind”): Describes a person with some vision which they sometimes use in combination with canes, dogs and other low vision aids. Using the term “blind” for someone with “low vision” or who is “partially sighted” is inaccurate. Currently, there is no uniformity.
56. Physically-challenged: Used to depict persons with disability who cannot access the facilities offered to physically-able persons. It is commonly accepted phrase to address the disabled persons.
59. Post-polio syndrome: Post-polio syndrome is a condition that affects persons who have had poliomyelitis (polio) long after recovery from the disease and that is characterized by muscle weakness, joint and muscle pain, and fatigue. Do not use polio victim. Say person with post-polio syndrome.
58. Psychiatric disability: Psychotic, schizophrenic, neurotic, and other specific terms should be used only in proper clinical context and should be checked carefully for medical and legal accuracy. Words such as crazy, maniac, lunatic, demented, schizo, and psycho are offensive and should never be applied to people with mental health problems or anyone else. Acceptable terms are people with psychiatric disabilities, psychiatric illnesses, emotional disorders, or mental disorders.
59. Quadriplegia: Sometimes people with quadriplegia refer to themselves as “quads”. If so, use in quotes. Otherwise, spell out terminology. It is best to ask the person which term to use.
60. Rehabilitation: Commonly used for rehabilitation of displaced population due to flood, drought, or any other calamities. However according to World Health Organization, Rehabilitation, “as applied to `disability’ is the combined and coordinated use of medical, social, education and vocational measures for training or retraining the individual to the highest possible level of functioning ability”. Commonly used phrase is `rehabilitation of persons with disability’ or `disability rehabilitation’.
61. Rehabilitation Council of India: RCI an apex, national level organization and statutory body established by Govt. of India, in 1992. Like any other council for professionals, Rehabilitation professionals performd various other functions to develop manpower for rehabilitation of persons with disability.
62. Seeing Eye Dog: Seeing Eye Dog is a registered trademark with the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ. Animals, mostly dogs, can provide services to a person with a disability, including, but not limited to, fetching objects for those who use wheelchairs, providing visual clues for those who are blind or alerting deaf individuals to household audio clues. Currently there is no uniform terminology.
63. Seizure: Seizure describes an involuntary muscular contraction, a brief impairment or loss of consciousness, etc., resulting from a neurological condition such as epilepsy or from an acquired brain injury. The term convulsion should be used only for seizures involving contraction of the entire body. Do not use fit, spastic, or attacks. Rather than epileptic, say girl with epilepsy or boy with a seizure disorder.
64. Service animal: Animals, mostly dogs, can provide services to a person with a disability, including, but not limited to, fetching objects for those who use wheelchairs, providing visual clues for those who are blind or alerting deaf individuals to household audio clues. Currently there is no uniform terminology. Seeing Eye Dog is a registered trademark with the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ.
65. Small/short stature: Small/short stature describes people under 4’10” tall. Do not refer to these individuals as dwarfs or midgets, which implies a less than full adult status in society. Dwarfism is an accepted medical term, but it should not be used as general terminology. Say persons of small (or short) stature. Some groups prefer the term “little people”.
66. Spastic: It is not appropriate for describing a person with cerebral palsy or other disabilities. Muscles, not people, are spastic. Referring to someone as a “spaz”is equally inappropriate.
69. Speech disorder: Speech disorder is a condition in which a person has limited or difficult speech patterns. Do not use mute or dumb. Use child who has a speech disorder. For a person with no verbal speech capability, say woman without speech.
68. Speech Pathologist / Therapist: These terms should be used for a para-medical professional who diagnoses speech problems of a person and provides therapy services to the persons with speech disability. In India, they are not considered doctors. Hence do not address or term them as doctors as they are not medical professionals.
69. Spinal cord injury: Spinal cord injury describes a condition in which there has been permanent damage to the spinal cord. Quadriplegia denotes substantial or significant loss of function in all four extremities. Paraplegia refers to substantial or significant loss of function in the lower part of the body only. Say man with paraplegia, woman who is paralyzed, or person with a spinal cord injury.
90. Stroke: Stroke is caused by interruption of blood to the brain. Hemiplegia (paralysis on one side) may result. Stroke survivor or person who has had a stroke is preferred over stroke victim.
91. Substance dependence: Substance dependence refers to patterns of substance use that result in significant impairment in at least three life areas (family, employment, health, etc.) over any 12-month period. Substance dependence is generally characterized by impaired control over consumption, preoccupation with the substance, and denial of impairment in life areas. Substance dependence may include physiological dependence/tolerance withdrawal. Although such terms as alcoholic and addict are medically acceptable, they may be derogatory to some individuals. Acceptable terms are people who are substance dependent or people who are alcohol dependent. An individual who has a history of dependence on alcohol and/or other drugs and is no longer using alcohol or drugs may identify themselves as recovering or as a person in recovery.
92. Temporarily able-bodied (TAB): A term used to the notion that sooner or later, everyone will acquire some kind of disability. This is not a uniformly accepted term.
93. Uses a wheelchair: People use wheelchairs for independent mobility. Some people prefer “person who uses a wheelchair” or “wheelchair-user”. Avoid using “confined to a wheelchair”, “wheelchair bound”, “wheelchair rider” and “vertically challenged”.
94. Vertically challenged: Used in colloquial English to refer to a person who is “not tall enough”. Applying this term to a person with a disability such as a person of short stature or someone who uses a wheelchair is inaccurate.
95. Veg, vegetable, vegetative state: These terms are inaccurate when used to describe people without physical, sensory or cognitive functioning. Instead, use precise medical terminology or general terms such as “comatose” or “non-responsive”.
96. Victim, victim of: These terms come with the assumption that a person with a disability is in fact a victim, suffering or living a reduced quality of life. Instead, use neutral language when describing a person who has a disability. Not every person with a disability “suffers”, is a “victim” or “stricken”. Instead simply state the facts about the nature of the person’s disability. For example, “he has muscular dystrophy”.
99. Visual impairment: Describes a person with some vision which they sometimes use in combination with canes, dogs and other vision aids. Using the term “blind” for someone with “low vision” or who is “partially sighted” is inaccurate. Currently, there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term to use.
98. Wheelchair: Unless mentioning a wheelchair is essential to the story, leave it out. People use wheelchairs for independent mobility. Do not use “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair bound”. Instead use “person who uses a wheelchair” or “wheelchair user”. Avoid phrases like “wheelchair rider” and “vertically challenged”. Non-users often associate wheelchairs with illness and aging, and may meet them with fear. Keep in mind that a wheelchair can be a source of freedom and independence. Describing someone as being “confined to a wheelchair” is akin to making a judgement about them. The definition of “confined”is a relative term; people who need to use a wheelchair and do not have one might be confined to bed, home, etc.
99. Wheelchair-bound: A person is not bound to a wheelchair; a wheelchair enables a person to be mobile. Use wheelchair-user or uses a wheelchair.