Remploy Mobile menu toggle

Disability etiquette

Using the correct terminology, language and behaviours demonstrates your and your company’s values. It is not about political correctness, but it is about showing respect to all people regardless of their background or ability.

Here are some hints and tips on things to avoid and consider as an alternative:

Avoid Suggested alternative
The term ‘suffer’ – for example ‘he suffers from epilepsy’. ‘Has’ or ‘experiences’ – for example ‘he has epilepsy’ as this is non-judgmental.
The term ‘problem’ – for example ‘he has a mental health problem.’ ‘Difficulty’ or ‘Challenge’. In this particular example it may be best to say ‘he has a mental illness’ or ‘he has mild depression’.
The word ‘only’ can imply judgement if you’re not careful – for example ‘she can only sit on a till’. Something like ‘putting her solely on the till is the most effective use of her skills and abilities’.
Never use the word ‘victim’ – for example ‘he is a victim of poor vision’; as it is judgmental. Say ‘he has poor vision’.
Don’t describe a disabled person in terms of their condition – for example ‘she is a diabetic’. Say ‘she has diabetes’.
Don’t use the term ‘handicap’ because of its negative connotations. Avoid ‘mental handicap’ as this is now considered offensive. In most cases the word ‘condition’ will suffice. ‘Learning disability’ is the term now used to describe a condition which results in an impaired intellectual ability.
Avoid terms such as ‘wheelchair bound’ of ‘housebound’ as these are judgmental. Say ‘uses a wheelchair’ or ‘doesn’t leave the house’ as these are factual.
‘Cripple’ and ‘spastic’ were once commonly used terms which are now considered offensive. Use phrases such as ‘walks with sticks’, ‘uses a wheelchair’ or ‘has a condition which affects his mobility’.
Leaning on someone’s wheelchair is imposing upon their personal space. There isn’t an alternative – just don’t do it!

There are some things you may be nervous about saying which, in the main, will be fine. For example, most blind and visually impaired people will use phrases like ‘see you next week’ or ‘I’m just reading your letter’.

However, it is important to remember that everyone is different so take your lead from the individual.

Back to A-Z of disabilities