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Words with Dignity:  Unhandicapping Our Language

People with a disability can and should be described in words and expressions that portray them in an appropriate, positive and sensitive manner.  The following guidelines are suggested/preferred by some 200 organizations that represent or are associated with Canadians with a disability.

Please remember:

Describe the person, not the disability: refer to a person’s disability only when it is relevant. Avoid images designed to evoke pity or guilt.

If in doubt, ask.  People with a disability will be more than willing to help you.

Instead of…


Disabled or

Person with a disability

(the) disabled

People or persons with disabilities


Person with a disability

Crippled by, afflicted with, or suffers from…

Person who has… or person with …

Physically challenged

Person with a disability

Victim, sufferer

Person with a disability


Person with a disability


Limited mobility

Mobility impaired

Limited mobility

Confined, bound, restricted or dependent on a wheelchair

Wheelchair user



Able-bodied or non-disabled

Deaf and dumb, deaf mute

Person who is hard of hearing or deaf

Hearing impaired

Person who is hard of hearing or deaf

Retarded, mentally retarded, person with a mental handicap,

Person with an intellectual disability or person with a developmental disability

Spastic (as a noun)

Person with Cerebral Palsy

Deformed, congenital defect

A person born with…

Visually impaired

Blind or partially sighted

The terms paraplegic, quadriplegic and amputee are used and accepted by persons with those disabilities.

Supported by: Fitness Canada Government of Canada Fitness and Amateur Sport; Government du Canada Condition physique et Sport amateur