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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!


Instead of:

Children (or people) with disabilitiesthe disabled, the handicapped
He has a disabilityhe’s disabled; he’s handicapped
She has a cognitive disabilitymy daughter is retarded
People with cognitive disabilitiesthe (mentally) retarded
She has Down syndromeshe’s Down’s; she’s mongoloid
My son has autismmy son is autistic
He has a learning disabilityhe’s learning disabled; he’s LD
She has a physical disabilityshe’s a quadriplegic or a cripple
My son has a physical disabilitymy son is disabled
She is of short statureshe’s a dwarf
She has an emotional disabilityshe’s emotionally disturbed
He uses a wheelchair (or mobility chair)he’s confined to a wheelchair he’s wheelchair bound
Typical children; kids without disabilitiesnormal kids or healthy kids
He receives special ed serviceshe’s in special ed
He needs behavior supportshe has behavior problems
He has a brain injuryHe’s brain damaged
Accessible parking/bathroomhandicapped parking/bathroom
She needs… She uses…she has a problem with… she can’t
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