Let’s Talk Attentive Disability Language

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Disability language tips

Blindness Awareness Month

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - ‘tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning. “
— Mark Twain

Have you ever wondered about the correct term(s) that should be used when speaking about or speaking to an individual with a disability? Not many people know the correct terms to use and using the wrong term to describe a person may insult them.


General guidelines for using attentive disability language (1)

General guidelines for using attentive disability language (1)

General Guidelines for using attentive disability language

DO:

  • Refer to a person’s disability only when its related to what is being spoken about

  • Avoid phrases like “suffers from”

  • In doubt, call a person with a disability by his/her name

  • For accommodations, use the term accesssible

  • Use the words or phrases, “disabled”, “disability” or “people with disabilities”

DON’T:

  • Ask “What’s wrong with you?”

  • Refer to people in generic or general terms

  • For accomodations, don’t use the term “disabled”, "the disabled" or handicapped”

  • Don’t use the terms “differently-abled”, “cripple”, “crippled”, “victim”,”retarded”, “stricken”, “poor”, “unfortunate” or “special needs”


The general guidelines of using attentive disability language extends using the corrects terms for different disabilities. The list below will cover the terms and phrases to uses for blind or visual impairment.

DON’T:

  • Refer to a person with this type of disability as "dumb" or "invalid"

DO:

Use the terms:

  • Blind/ Visually Impaired

  • Person who is blind/visually impaired

  • Limited vision

  • Low vision

  • Partially sighted

  • Legally blind

Terms and phrases used for individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired (1)(2)

Terms and phrases used for individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired (1)(2)


SOurce

  1. “Blind/Legally Blind/Limited Vision/Low Vision/Partially Sighted/Visually Impaired.” National Center on Disability and Journalism, 2018, ncdj.org/style-guide/.

  2. National Youth Leadership Network, and Kids As Self Advocates. “Respectful Disability Language: Here’s What’s Up!” Respectful Disability Language: Here’s What’s Up!, 2006, www.aucd.org/docs/add/sa_summits/Language%20Doc.pdf.