Language and Disability

Words Matter

The following guidelines are designed to increase awareness about the importance of culturally sensitive language when writing about individuals with disabilities and their families. They are suggestions for using language in a more sensitive manner that avoids reducing individuals to a series of labels, symptoms, and/or medical terms. These suggestions are intended to provide individuals with information about how words really do make a difference. It is important to understand that being aware of how language is used regarding individuals with disabilities and their families does not suppress freedom of speech. Instead, it is adopting the principle that every individual deserves respect, as well as acknowledging the disability, unique identity, and shared humanity of each person.

The resources are organized into the following six different categories and can be accessed through the menu on the left:

  • Key Concepts in the Disability Community
  • Person-First Language
  • Portrayal Issues
  • Your Words, Our Image
  • Rosa’s Law & the Language of Bullying
  • A Few Exceptions

They are presented here with permission from our partners at the Research and Training Center on Independent Living at the University of Kansas in Guidelines: How to Write and Report About People with Disabilities, 9th Edition