Terminology used by PWDA
Language shapes the way we view the world. The words we use influences community attitudes - both positively and negatively - and impacts on the lives of others.
How we write and speak about people with disability can have a profound effect on the way they are viewed by the community and themselves. Some words, by their very nature, degrade and diminish people with disability. Other words perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes.
PWDA ensures that a social model of disability is presented in all written work and all verbal communication.
This includes referring to ‘people with disability’ rather than ‘people with disabilities’ as well as ‘women with disability’, ‘children with disability’, etc.
We recommend referring to ‘people with intellectual disability’ rather that ‘intellectually challenged’ or ‘mentally retarded’.
We recommend using ‘people with psychosocial disability’ to refer someone living with a mental illness. We avoid pejorative terms like ‘crazy’, ‘mad’ or ‘insane’.
Generally, we also urge to refer to ‘people with Down syndrome’ instead of ‘Mongol”, to ‘people with cerebral palsy’ instead of ‘spastic’, to ‘people with autism’ instead of ‘autistic people ’, to ‘people with ADHD’ instead of ‘hyperactive’, to ‘people with brain injury’ instead of ‘brain damaged people ’, to ‘people with learning disability’ instead of ‘slows’, to ‘people with paraplegia’ instead of ‘paraplegic people ’, etc.
We only use the word ‘blind’ when the person is fully blind. Otherwise, ‘person with a visual impairment’ or ‘person with vision impairment’ is preferred.
People are not victims either. We do not use expressions like ‘suffers from depression’, but to refer instead to a ‘person living with depression’.
Equally, we recommend not using the expression ‘confined to a wheelchair’. A wheelchair is not confining, it provides great mobility to people who can’t walk. A person ‘uses a wheelchair’ or is a ‘wheelchair user’.
We avoid phrases like ‘disabled toilet’ or ‘disabled parking space’. The toilet or parking space is not disabled (ie broken)! Use ‘accessible toilet’ or ‘accessible parking space’.
We recommend using ‘person without disability’ rather than ‘sighted’, ‘hearing’, ‘able-bodied’, ‘normal’, ‘healthy’, etc.
We advocate against the use patronising of language, describing people as ‘brave’ or ‘special’ just because they live with disability.
The word ‘carer’ should be reserved for the ‘family’ of a person with disability who provide unpaid support. Workers who provide care and get paid for it, should be referred to as care workers, disability workers, disability staff, assistants or attendants.
We use a ‘person first language’ in all written and verbal communication which means we acknowledge the person before their disability. A person’s disability should not be unnecessarily focussed on.
Click here for PWDA’s Media Guidelines for Reporting Disability