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 that may be considered negative and/or offensive by people with or without disabilities.

There is a great deal of disagreement as to what should be considered offensive. Views vary with geography and culture, over time, and among individuals. Many terms that some people view as offensive are not viewed as offensive by others, and even where some people are offended by certain terms, others may be offended 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 offend people; others hold the listener responsible for misinterpreting terms used with non-offensive intent.

For some terms, the grammar structure of their use determine if they are offensive. The people first stance advocates for saying "people with disabilities" instead of "the disabled" or "a person who is deaf" instead of "a deaf person".[1][2][3] 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.[4]



  • Blind, especially when used metaphorically (e.g., "blind to criticism") or preceded by "the".[2][6][7]









  • 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."[2][9][10]
  • Lunatic or looney[2]












  1. ^ Vaughan, C. Edwin (March 2009). "People-First Language: An Unholy Crusade". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  2. ^ 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 z "Resource on Person-First Language - The Language Used to Describe Individuals With Disabilities". American Speech–Language–Hearing Association. December 1992. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Disability etiquette - Tips On Interacting With People With Disabilities" (PDF). United Spinal Association. 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  4. ^ Egan, Lisa (9 November 2012). "I'm Not A "Person With a Disability": I'm a Disabled Person". XoJane. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  5. ^ Kent, Tamsyn (6 November 2009). "Has ‘autism’ become a term of abuse?". BBC News. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "ENC1101 First-year Composition - Guidelines for Avoiding Ableist Language". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Crank at Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  9. ^ a b c d "The Transcontinental Disability Choir: What is Ableist Language and Why Should You Care?". 11 November 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Disability Access Services Blog - Ableism and Language". 31 January 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Brown, Lydia (16 June 2013). "Ableist Language". Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Clare, Eli. "Thinking about the word crip". Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Quackenbush, Nicole (2008). Bodies in Culture, Culture in Bodies: Disability Narratives and a Rhetoric of Resistance. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest LLC. pp. 118–127. 
  15. ^ Cowley, Gina. "Female Hysteria". BellaOnline. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  16. ^ Rapley, Mark (2004), The Social Construction of Intellectual Disability, Cambridge University Press, p. 32, ISBN 978-0-521-00529-6 .
  17. ^ Cruz, Isagani A.; Quaison, Camilo D., Correct Choice of Words' : English Grammar Series for Filipino Lawyers (2003 ed.), Rex Bookstore, Inc., pp. 444–445, ISBN 978-971-23-3686-7 .
  18. ^ Penn, David L.; Nowlin-Drummond, Amy (2001). "Politically Correct Labels and Schizophrenia: A Rose by Any Other Name?" (PDF). Schizophrenia Bulletin 27 (2): 197–203. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.schbul.a006866. 
  19. ^ Kelly, Jon; Winterman, Denise (10 October 2011). "OCD, bipolar, schizophrenic and the misuse of mental health terms". BBC News. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  20. ^ " - Schizoid". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  21. ^ "The Free Dictionary - Schizo". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  22. ^ " - Tard". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  23. ^ Frumkin, Howard; Packard, Randall M.; Brown, Peter G.; Ruth L. Berkelman (2004). Emerging illnesses and society: negotiating the public health agenda. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-7942-6. 
  24. ^ Will Cuppy, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, (New York: Henry Holt, 1950), p. 30, fn. 2: "We have cone-headed people today, but we do not call them Squill Heads. We call them Zips."

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