Welcome to the ODO Press Room
Open Doors Organization has served as a media resource on disability-related issues since its founding in 2000, providing countless referrals, background research and interviews for print media and television news. If you need assistance, please feel free to contact the following ODO staff members:
Eric Lipp, Executive Director
Laurel Van Horn, Director of Programs
212-260-6103 or 773-818-7838 (cell)
Disability Language Guidelines
Members of the media who are new to the topic of disability may be unaware that certain words and phrases in common use are considered disrespectful by people with disabilities. We provide the following basic language guidelines to help journalists and reporters avoid inadvertently offending their readers and listeners.
People-First Language and Other Appropriate Terminology
- Do not refer to a person’s disability unless it is relevant.
- Most people with disabilities prefer “People First” terminology such as person who is blind or people with disabilities since this acknowledges them as people first rather than their disability.
- Avoid referring to groups of people by their condition or disability such as the blind or the deaf“.
- Avoid sensational descriptive words when referring to a person’s disability such as suffers from, is a victim of, or is afflicted with. Instead say
- Use disabled, disability or accessible rather than handicapped.
- Avoid condescending euphemisms such as differently abled, physically challenged, mentally different or handicapable.”
- Avoid portraying people with disabilities as overly courageous, brave or special. This implies that it is unusual for people with disabilities to be independent or competent.
- Never say anything that you would not want said to or about yourself.
|Do Say||Don’t Say|
|person with/who has a disability, people with disabilities/functional limitations||the disabled, handicapped, physically challenged, differently abled|
|non-disabled, able-bodied||normal, healthy|
|uses wheelchair, uses assistive device, i.e., wheelchair, crutches, walker, etc.||wheelchair bound, confined to a wheelchair|
|birth injury, congenital disability||birth defect, birth affliction, deformity|
|person with a physical disability||crippled, lame, deformed, invalid, gimp|
|person who is deaf/hard of hearing||the deaf, hearing impaired, deaf mute, deaf and dumb|
|has a speech disability, unable to speak||has a speech defect, dumb|
|person who is blind/has low vision||the blind, blind people, visually impaired|
|person with an intellectual/cognitive/developmental disability||stupid, re-tard, retarded, slow, mentally defective, subnormal, mentally challenged|
|person with epilepsy/seizure disorder||epileptic, has fits, spastic|
|person with a psychiatric/mental health disability||crazy, nuts, loony|
|person of short stature, little person, dwarf||midget|