Depicting People with Disabilities in the Media
Recognize that people with disabilities have rights, among them the right to privacy. Treat them as you would treat others. If in doubt about mentioning their disabilities, ask them. People who are blind, for example, may prefer to be called blind instead of partially sighted or visually impaired.
Avoid mentioning a disability when it is not pertinent. When necessary to mention a disability, put the person first, not the disability: The man who is blind. The woman who is paralyzed. The child with a mental illness. Don't say the paraplegic, the schizophrenic, the cripple, the brain-damaged person.
Disability and disabled are preferred to handicap and handicapped. Avoid impersonal phrasing such as the handicapped or the disabled. Instead say disabled people, or better yet, people with disabilities. Avoid condescending euphemisms when writing about people with disabilities: handicapable, physically challenged and special, for example.
Avoid the use of disabled or crippled when mentioning inanimate objects such as disabled truck. Try stalled truck or change the sentence structure: The truck with mechanical problems blocked traffic for an hour.
Treat people with disabilities with respect. Here are some reminders when writing about people with disabilities:
- confined - People with disabilities are not confined to wheelchairs or wheelchair-bound. Instead, say a person uses a wheelchair, has a wheelchair or gets around by wheelchair. Stress abilities, not limitations.
- cripple - Often considered offensive when used to describe a person who is disabled.
- deaf and dumb, deaf mute - Most people who are deaf have healthy vocal cords. If they do not speak, it is because they do not hear the correct way to pronounce words. Say a person who is deaf, a person with a hearing impairment, a woman without speech, a child who has a speech disorder.
- disease - Most people with disabilities are healthy. Use condition.
- invalid - Do not use. It means not valid.
- suffers from - Don't say a person with a disability suffers from the disability. Say the person has a disability.
- unfortunate - An adjective that describes someone with bad luck, not a person with a disability.
- victim - Having a disability does not make a person a victim. Also, a person with AIDS is not an AIDS victim