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: concentrate on the person, not the disability!

Say:                                                                                                                                                                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


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