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  • Let’s talk about words. Words are like seeds. They have a creative power, but they also can have a destructive power.

  • A careless word can shape someone’s reality for years to come.

  • The language you use – even in your mind - determines your attitude and how you perceive things.

  • Just as some well-known four letter words are offensive, so are some words used to refer to people with disabilities.  


Disability Etiquette


These terms are words to avoid (they are offensive):


Cerebral Palsied

Confined to a Wheelchair




Deaf and Dumb, or Deaf Mute





Poor or Pitiful 

Wheelchair Bound





Hearing Impaired



Normal vs. Abnormal: I am normal. Normal varies to each individual. I have a new normal compared to before my spinal cord injury. Like Aimee Mullins says very simply, “Normal means “commonplace.”


Proper Terminology: 

In your mind, frame someone as “Person” has a disability. Like "Mauree" has a disability with mobility. I am not my disability – although it does affect me, for sure.


Focus on the Person! Make your language about the person.

  • A person who is

    • Blind, or has Vison loss

    • Deaf or Hard of Hearing

    • Non-Disabled

    • Physically Disabled

  • A Person who has:  

    • Cerebral Palsy

    • Low Vision

    • Multiple Sclerosis

    • Muscular Dystrophy

    • Polio

    • A Spinal Cord Injury

    • A Mental Illness

  • Appropriate Phrases

    • A woman who uses a wheelchair

    • An employee with arthritis

    • A child who uses a communication device


Remember to always put the person first. Let’s make the words be helpful - not offensive or limiting.



Make friends with people with disabilities; be helpful in public, advocate for them. Let’s all make safer, more accessible and welcoming communities.



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