But don’t be overly politically correct about it


Disability language has changed dramatically in recent decades — most would argue for the better — but even advocates for change feel some of these new terms are “overly politically correct”.

With help from Link magazine, the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care has compiled a list of what’s okay to say and and what’s not.

The department advises against using “nice” euphemisms, such as ‘intellectually challenged’, ‘differently abled’ and ‘physically challenged’.
These are a “denial of reality”, the department says. “Don’t use them.”

And calling somebody ‘special’ or ‘brave’ just because they have a disability is downright patronising, they say.
Also, it’s not okay to use the word ‘normal’ to distinguish from people with a disability.

Instead, using double negatives, such as ‘non-disabled’ or ‘person without a disability’ is better, as are descriptive terms, such as ‘sighted’, ‘hearing’ and ‘ambulant’.

Even for pharmacists, it can be hard to find the right language to describe people with disabilities. So here are a few more useful dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t use ‘a’ before nouns such as haemophiliac, epileptic or paraplegic; instead, say ‘a person with haemophilia’, ‘a women with epilepsy’ or ‘a man who has paraplegia’.
  • Only use the word ‘blind’ if the person is really blind; otherwise, say ‘person with a sight or vision impairment’. (Don’t say ‘visual impairment’ because that implies the person is unattractive.)
  • The same applies to ‘deaf’ — ‘hearing impaired’ is much better.
  • Don’t say ‘disabled’, say ‘person with a disability’.
  • Try to avoid saying ‘fits’ and instead use ‘seizures’.
  • ‘Psychiatric disability’ and ‘mental illness’ are both okay but ‘mentally disabled’ is not.

Read the complete A-Z of disability language HERE