People First Language (PFL) was developed to respectfully speak about people with disabilities. The number one focus of PFL is putting the person before his/her disability because the disability is only a small part of the whole person. PFL highlights a person's strengths, abilities and potential to succeed instead of labeling the individual or confining the person to an established stereotype.



Remember to concentrate on getting to know the person instead of the disability.

Instead of:
 Children (or people) with disabilities    the disabled, the handicapped  
 He has a disability    he’s disabled; he’s handicapped  
 She has a cognitive disability    my daughter is retarded  
 People with cognitive disabilities    the (mentally) retarded  
 She has Down syndrome    she’s Down’s; she’s mongoloid  
 My son has autism    my son is autistic  
 He has a learning disability    he’s learning disabled; he’s LD  
 She has a physical disability    she’s a quadriplegic or a cripple  
 My son has a physical disability    my son is disabled  
 She is of short stature    she’s a dwarf  
 She has an emotional disability    she’s emotionally disturbed  
 He uses a wheelchair (or mobility chair)    he’s confined to a wheelchair he’s wheelchair bound  
 Typical children; kids without disabilities    normal kids or healthy kids  
 He receives special ed services    he’s in special ed  
 He needs behavior supports    he has behavior problems  
 He has a brain injury    He’s brain damaged  
 Accessible parking/bathroom    handicapped parking/bathroom  
 She needs… She uses…    she has a problem with… she can’t