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Disability Services


In writing or speaking about people who have disabilities, it is important to consider perceptions generated by language. Describing a person with abilities, rather than disabilities, can promote more positive understanding and attitudes. Appreciate what the person can do. Remember that difficulties the person faces may stem more from society’s attitude and barriers than from the disability itself.

Refer to the person first, not the disability, to invite the perception of inclusion into a community rather than the image of a separate and unusual group. Terms like “the cripple” tend to develop an image of inadequacy, whereas the descriptive phrase “person who uses a wheelchair” tends to suggest an identifying attribute of a group member with a particular ability. Also, don’t be too cautious of what you say or do around someone who has a disability. Being afraid of saying the wrong thing is a natural reaction. Relax, it’s okay. We all feel this way when we’re not quite sure how to respond. However, just remember to try to look at the student as a person first, not as a person with a disability.