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List of disability-related terms with negative connotations

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The following is a list of terms used to describe disabilities or people with disabilities which are considered negative or offensive by people with or without disabilities.

Some folks consider it best to use person-first language, for example "a person with a disability" rather than "a disabled person."[1] However identity-first language, as in "autistic person" or "Deaf person", is preferred by many people and organizations.[2]

There is disagreement as to what causes harm.Views vary with geography and culture, over time, and among individuals. Many terms that some people view as harmful are not viewed as hurtful by others, and even where some people are hurt by certain terms, others may be hurt by the replacement of such terms with what they consider to be euphemisms (e.g., "differently abled" or "special needs"). Some people believe that terms should be avoided if they might hurt people; others hold the listener responsible for misinterpreting terms used with non-intended to be harmful intent.

For some terms, the grammar structure of their use determine if they are harmful. The person-first stance advocates for saying "people with disabilities" instead of "the disabled" or "a person who is deaf" instead of "a deaf person".[3][4][5] However, some advocate against this, saying it reflects a medical model of disability whereas "disabled person" is more appropriate and reflects the social model of disability.[6] On the other hand, there is also a grammar structure called identity-first language that construes disability as a function of social and political experiences occurring within a world designed largely for nondisabled people.[7]

A

  • Able-bodied, there is an implied value judgement comparing a person with a disability verses one without[8]
  • Abnormal[9]
  • Addict, use person with a drug problem or person with a substance use disorder instead[10]
  • Afflicted[8]
  • Attention-seeking, commonly used to label someone who is suffering emotionally[11]
  • Autism or autistic, when used as an insult.[12]

B

  • Batty[13]
  • Birth defect[8]
  • Blind, especially when used metaphorically (e.g., "blind to criticism") or preceded by "the".[4][14][15] (Although "the blind" is considered acceptable by many blind people, and organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind).[16]
  • Bonkers[13]
  • Brain damaged, use a person with a brain injury instead[17]

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

  • Imbecile was the diagnostic term for people with IQ scores between 30 and 50 in the early 1900s.[38] It is no longer used professionally.[4] Before to the IQ test was developed in 1905, "imbecile" was also commonly used as a casual insult towards anyone perceived as incompetent at doing something.[38]
  • Incapacitated[4]
  • Idiot was the diagnostic term used for people with IQ scores under 30 when the IQ test was first developed in the early 1900s.[38][39] It is also no longer used professionally. Before the IQ test was developed in 1905, "idiot" was also commonly used as a casual insult towards anyone perceived as incompetent at doing something.[38]
  • Inmate (when referring to a psychiatric admission), use patient or client instead[10]
  • Insane[23]
  • Inspirational[40] or inspiring, when used about somebody doing a very ordinary activity (inspirational porn). Based on pity.
  • Invalid[4][14]

J

  • Junkie, use person with a drug problem or person with a substance use disorder instead.[10]

L

M

N

  • Narc, narcissist[11] this does not mean the same as abuser[44]
  • Nut, nuts, or nutter, nut house, etc.[21][23]

P

R

S

  • Scatterbrained[48]
  • Schizo especially as an adjective, meaning "erratic" or "unpredictable" or, for the former two, to refer to an individual.[49][50][51][52]
  • Schizophrenic, when referring to an individual[8]
  • Senile[8]
  • Slow[53]
  • Sluggish[48]
  • Sociopath, name the person's behavior instead[45]
  • Spastic/Spaz/Spakka[4][15][20] — especially in the UK and Ireland. Previously referred to muscle spasticity or a person with cerebral palsy, which may involve muscle spasms. Also used to insult someone uncoordinated or making jerking movements.
  • Special[18]
  • Special Needs[54]
  • Stone Deaf[55]
  • Stricken[9]
  • Subnormal[18]
  • Supercrip[56]
  • Sufferer, use person with..." instead, negative and disempowering terms should be avoided[5]

T

U

V

W

Y

  • "Yuppie flu" used as a pejorative term for chronic fatigue syndrome. This originated from the media stereotype of people with CFS as ambitious, young, and affluent, and not have a genuine illness, neither of which is an accurate portrayal.[63]

External links

References

  1. ^ a b "Inclusive language: words to use and avoid when writing about disability". gov.uk. 2018. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  2. ^ Haller, Beth (7 January 2016). "Journalists should learn to carefully traverse a variety of disability terminology | National Center on Disability and Journalism". Retrieved 2020-08-30.
  3. ^ Vaughan, C. Edwin (March 2009). "People-First Language: An Unholy Crusade". Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y "Resource on Person-First Language - The Language Used to Describe Individuals With Disabilities". American Speech–Language–Hearing Association. December 1992. Archived from the original on 11 May 2015. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Disability etiquette - Tips On Interacting With People With Disabilities" (PDF). United Spinal Association. 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  6. ^ Egan, Lisa (9 November 2012). "I'm Not A "Person With a Disability": I'm a Disabled Person". XoJane. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  7. ^ Dunn, Dana S.; Andrews, Erin E. (2015). "Person-first and identity-first language: Developing psychologists' cultural competence using disability language". American Psychologist. 70 (3): 255–264. doi:10.1037/a0038636. PMID 25642702.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Terms to Avoid When Writing About Disability | National Center on Disability and Journalism". September 2015. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  9. ^ a b c "Words with Dignity" (PDF). Paraquad. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d Kanigel, Rachele (2019-01-14). The Diversity Style Guide. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 242–243. ISBN 978-1-119-05507-5.
  11. ^ a b Mollon, Anna (2015). "The Disability Drive" (PDF). Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  12. ^ Kent, Tamsyn (6 November 2009). "Has 'autism' become a term of abuse?". BBC News. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Brown, Lydia XZ. "Ableist words and terms to avoid" (PDF). Disability Resource Center | University of Arizona.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "ENC1101 First-year Composition - Guidelines for Avoiding Ableist Language". Archived from the original on 16 September 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h "Advice for Staff - Disability Etiquette - Appropriate Language and Behaviour". Student Support and Accommodation. Heriot-Watt University. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  16. ^ Jernigan, Kenneth (March 2009). "The Pitfalls of Political Correctness: Euphemisms Excoriated". National Federation of the Blind.
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  22. ^ Clare, Eli. "Thinking about the word crip". Retrieved 18 January 2014.
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  28. ^ Escalante, Alison. "Researchers Doubt That Certain Mental Disorders Are Disorders At All". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  29. ^ Bryan, Chloe (September 22, 2017). "What is a 'dotard,' anyway?". Mashable. Retrieved March 8, 2018. At its core, "dotard" makes a judgement about a person's mental health, which is not a particularly wise thing to be doing to your peers as you dance through life.
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  37. ^ Cowley, Gina. "Female Hysteria". BellaOnline. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
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  39. ^ Cruz, Isagani A.; Quaison, Camilo D. (2003), Correct Choice of Words' : English Grammar Series for Filipino Lawyers (2003 ed.), Rex Bookstore, Inc., pp. 444–445, ISBN 978-971-23-3686-7.
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  60. ^ "the definition of vegetable". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
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