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14.15 Neutral word descriptions

Avoid language that suggests characteristics of courage, suffering, pity or abnormality, such as brave, inspirational, victim, special, incompetent or defective. Use factual rather than emotional terms:

  • person who has lupus not lupus sufferer
  • wheelchair user not confined to a wheelchair
  • congenital condition not birth defect
  • person with cerebral palsy not spastic
  • Down syndrome not mongolism
  • hearing- and speech-impaired not deaf and dumb
  • non-disabled students not normal students
  • intellectually or developmentally impaired not retarded
  • seizure not fit

Avoid condescending euphemisms like "physically challenged" and "differently abled."

Use precise words when describing disabilities. The degree of impairment must be taken into consideration:

  • paraplegic or quadriplegic not crippled
  • visually impaired not partially blind