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." However identity-first language, as in "autistic person" or "Deaf person", is preferred by many people and organizations.
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". 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. 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.
- Able-bodied, there is an implied value judgement comparing a person with a disability verses one without
- Addict, use person with a drug problem or person with a substance use disorder instead
- Attention-seeking, commonly used to label someone who is suffering emotionally
- Autism or autistic, when used as an insult.
- Birth defect
- Blind, especially when used metaphorically (e.g., "blind to criticism") or preceded by "the". (Although "the blind" is considered acceptable by many blind people, and organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind).
- Brain damaged, use a person with a brain injury instead
- Cripple used to mean "a person with a physical or mobility impairment." Its shortened form, "crip" has been reclaimed by some people with disabilities as a positive identity.
- Confined to a wheelchair Implies helplessness, and that someone is to be pitied.
- Daft, consider nonsensical or feckless
- "Deaf and dumb" or "deaf-mute" or "deaf to"
- Defect, defective
- Demented, use a person with dementia
- Deranged or mentally deranged
- Derp is considered by some sites to refer to those with intellectual disabilities.
- Differently abled
- Dim or dim-witted
- DALYs/DFLYs/QALYs: Disability or Quality Adjusted (or Free) Life Years - suggests that a nondisabled person's life years are worth more than a disabled person's
- "The Disabled" or "Disabled people" may be offensive to some, who may prefer "person with a disability" or "people with health conditions or impairments" instead. However, many people prefer “disabled person” or “disabled people”, in part due to the social model of disability
- Dumb, especially when preceded by "the".
- Fit to refer to an epileptic seizure.
- Flid to refer to someone with phocomelia from birthmother's use of thalidomide
- Handicapped, especially when preceded by "the" or "physically".
- Hare lip
- Hysterical, typically used in reference to women.
- Imbecile was the diagnostic term for people with IQ scores between 30 and 50 in the early 1900s. It is no longer used professionally. 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.
- Idiot was the diagnostic term used for people with IQ scores under 30 when the IQ test was first developed in the early 1900s. 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.
- Inmate (when referring to a psychiatric admission), use patient or client instead
- Inspirational or inspiring, when used about somebody doing a very ordinary activity (inspirational porn). Based on pity.
- Junkie, use person with a drug problem or person with a substance use disorder instead.
- Lame. A reference to difficulty walking or moving. The term has since been adopted into urban slang to generally refer to something or someone as "meaningless" or "without worth", e.g. "He told us a lame excuse for why he had not done the work."
- Losing one's mind
- LPC - Likely to become a public charge
- Lunatic or looney
- Mad, madman
- Mental or mentally deficient, mental case, defective, disabled, deranged, or ill
- Mong, Mongol, Mongoloid, or Mongolism for Down syndrome.
- Moron, moronic
- Mutant, referring to someone with an uncommon genetic mutation
- Narc, narcissist this does not mean the same as abuser
- Nut, nuts, or nutter, nut house, etc.
- Paraplegic, use person with paraplegia
- Psychopath, which is an old term that used to mean a person with a mental illness, name the behavior of the person instead
- Retard/Retarded although before circa the 1990s this was considered acceptable by most non-disabled people and organizations. Also known as the r-word.
- Schizo especially as an adjective, meaning "erratic" or "unpredictable" or, for the former two, to refer to an individual.
- Schizophrenic, when referring to an individual
- Sociopath, name the person's behavior instead
- Spastic/Spaz/Spakka — 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 Needs
- Stone Deaf
- Sufferer, use person with..." instead, negative and disempowering terms should be avoided
- Wheelchair bound or confined, use "person who uses a wheelchair"
- Window licker
- "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.
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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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