People First Language

People First Language puts the person before the disability, and describes what the person has, not who a person is. Review the following examples of People First Language:

Examples of People First Language
Say: Instead of:
People with disabilities The handicapped or disabled
He has a cognitive disability/diagnosis He’s mentally retarded
She has autism (or a diagnosis of...) She’s autistic
He has Down syndrome (or a diagnosis of) He’s Down’s; a mongoloid
She has a learning disability (diagnosis) She’s learning disabled
He has a physical disability (diagnosis) He’s crippled
She's of short stature/she's a little person She’s a dwarf/midget
He has a mental health condition/ diagnosis He’s emotionally disturbed/mentally ill
She uses a wheelchair/mobility chair She’s confined to a wheelchair/ wheelchair bound
He receives special ed services He’s in special ed
She has a developmental delay She’s developmentally delayed
People without disabilities Normal or healthy people
Communicates with her eyes/device/etc Is non-verbal
Customer Client, consumer, recipient, etc
Congenital disability Birth defect
Brain injury Brain Damaged
Accessible parking, hotel room, etc Handicapped parking, hotel room, etc
She needs... or she uses... She has a problem with... or has special needs

Excerpted from Katie Snow’s People First Language article available at