Person with a disability
Person with a disability, person with a physical/sensory/mental/developmental disability, person with limited mobility, person with an emotional disorder
Disabled person, handicapped person, cripple, slow learner, special needs person, lame, deformed, paraplegic, defective, person with special needs
The only appropriate way to refer to a person with a disability is to call them just that – “a person with a disability”. Whenever people use words like “invalid” or “disabled person”, they add to the stigmatization of disability. After all, disability is just one trait among many. In addition to having a disability, a person is probably also someone’s partner or child, sibling or parent. They also have a certain hair color, a profession, their own achievements and other characteristics that don’t define them any less than their health status does. That’s why it’s preferable to talk about the disability as something a person “has”, not as something that is their defining characteristic. In other words, we should use people-first language.
The term “special needs”, which is also used when referring to people with disabilities, is also offensive and incorrect. After all, each and every one of us has specific needs, and who is to judge which ones are “special”? For example, some of us are early risers and are much more productive in the mornings, while others are able to work better in the late evening. Or take people who have sensitive eyes – they need to use sunglasses whenever it’s sunny out. Isn’t that a “special need”? Besides, ramps and elevators aren’t used exclusively by one specific group of people – they can be handy for parents with strollers, or travellers with heavy luggage.
The term “handicapped” was once widely used – in fact, it is one of the oldest terms used to refer to people with disabilities in the English language. However, it has an unpleasant connotation – it was initially used to talk about all kinds of disadvantages a person could have in life. After the rise of the disability rights movement, the world fell out of favor, and person-first language became the norm. Of course, obviously offensive words such as “cripple”, “deformed” or “defective” are definitely not the right ones to use.
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