Communication is key to welcoming all people into a church community. Therefore, learning about respectful disability language can be a first step in creating an environment that is inclusive for people with disabilities. The suggestions below are a good starting place, but continue to learn by listening to people with disabilities about the language they prefer.
- Disability: Use the term disability and don’t use the terms “handicapped,” “differently-abled,” “cripple,” “crippled,” “victim,” “retarded,” “stricken,” “poor,” “unfortunate,” or “special needs.”
- Person First Language: Rather than using phrases like “disabled person,” it is more respectful to put the emphasis on someone’s personhood by using the phrase “person with a disability.”
- Be Respectful: Just because someone has a disability, it doesn’t mean he/she is “courageous,” “brave,” “special,” or “superhuman” because of that disability. People with disabilities are the same as everyone else -- they have talents, skills, and abilities that are tied to their personhood.
- People Without Disabilities: When talking about people without disabilities, avoid terms like “normal” or “healthy.” These terms can make people with disabilities feel as though there is something wrong with them and that they are “abnormal."
- Listen, Don’t Assume: People with disabilities are experts on their needs, so listen to them when determining accommodations and learning about the language they prefer. Don’t be afraid to ask a person with a disability what terms they prefer. When in doubt, use the person’s name when addressing them.
Learn more about respectful disability language here.