The language that is now considered suitable to refer to people with physical and mental disabilities is very different from that used a few decades ago. The changes are due partly to campaigns by organizations that promote the interests of particular groups of disabled people and partly to the public's increased sensitivity to the issues. People are now keen to avoid using terms that might reinforce any negative stereotypes of people with disabilities, in the same way that they try to avoid the racist or sexist terms that were once commonly used.
- avoid using the + an adjective to refer to an entire group of people, such as ‘the blind’, ‘the deaf’, or ‘the disabled’. This type of collective term is seen as dehumanizing: in essence, it reduces the people with a disability to the disability itself. It also ignores the individuality of those people by lumping them together in an undifferentiated group. The preferred forms are now ‘a person with …’ or ‘people with ……’ wherever possible, i.e. ‘people with sight problems’, ‘people with disabilities’, etc. If that isn't suitable, use ‘blind people’, ‘disabled people’, and so on.
- avoid using terms such as victim, suffer from, be afflicted with, or wheelchair-bound which suggest that the person concerned is the helpless object of the disability. Instead of suffer from, you can just say have:
- avoid using words which once related to disabilities, but which are now generally used as insults, such as mongol, cretin, spastic, schizo, dumb, etc.