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Advice on respectful language and how to communicate with people with disabilities

Language is incredibly powerful. The way that someone speaks to you and the words that they use to describe you can create pride, identity and purpose. Negative, incorrect or demeaning language can be devastating to a person’s senses of worth and well being.

We have put together a few dot points on how to best talk about/to a person with a disability :

Focus on the Person not the Impairment

We focus on the person primarily. First person terminology is preferred when speaking to a person. For example “person with a disability” or “people with disability”

Disparaging Language

People with disability are just living their lives. They are no more super-human than anyone else. Implying that a person with disability is courageous or special just for getting through the day is patronizing and offensive.

  • A person with a disability is not “Weak”, a “Victim” “Afflicted”, “Suffering” These examples show how language can be used to imply the person should be pitied.
  • People are not “bound” to their Wheelchairs, they are enabled by them.
  • “Accessible” rather than “disabled” in the context of carparks, bathrooms, lifts.


As in most instances in life, speak to a person how you would like to be spoken to. It’s that easy!