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Disability Etiquette

You may not feel comfortable interacting with a person with a disability if you have no prior experience.  For example, you might think "how do I talk to someone who is in a wheelchair?" or "how do I interact with a blind or deaf person?"   We offer these guidelines below to ensure respectful and equal treatment.

Things to Remember

Disability Etiquette

Speech Disability Etiquette

Wheelchair Etiquette

Hearing Disability Etiquette

Visual Disability Etiquette

Words and Phrases Guidelines             

Disability vs. Handicap

A disability is a condition caused by such things as an accident or trauma, disease, or genetics that limits a person's vision, hearing, speech, mobility, or mental function.

A handicap is a constraint imposed upon a person, regardless of that person's ability or disability. These constraints can be physical or attitudinal. For example, stairs and curbs are handicaps imposed on those who use wheelchairs.

Always remember that the person is not the condition. Keep all your speech person focused, not disability focused. Avoid terms which carry a negative connotation:  abnormal, afflicted, confined, crippled, defective, handicap, invalid, lame, palsied, retarded, stricken, sufferer, victim, withered. Use empowering, individualized vocabulary; don't clump them with phrases like "the blind" or "the disabled."

Acceptable Unacceptable
A person with a disability Cripple
Disability Handicap; handicapped person
A person who has mental or developmental disabilities Moron; retarded; feebleminded
Able-bodied; able to walk, see, etc. Healthy; normal - Just because someone has a disability does not mean they are not healthy
A wheelchair user; walks with aid Confined/restricted to a wheelchair
Mental or emotional disability Crazy; insane
A person who is deaf/hearing impaired Deaf and dumb; mute
A person with epilepsy An epileptic
He has cerebral palsy He is a cerebral palsy victim
A successful/productive person Person who has overcome his/her disability; person who is courageous