News from LINC

Disability Language Style Guide

As language and social mores change at a seemingly faster and faster rate, it is becoming increasingly difficult for journalists and other communicators to figure out how to refer to people with disabilities. Event the term “disability” is no longer universally accepted. This guide, developed by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University, is intended to help. It covers almost 200 words and terms commonly used when referring to disability.

Some basic guidelines:

>Refer to a disability only if it is relevant to the story. People living with disabilities often complain, and rightly so, that their disability is mentioned even when it has nothing to do with the story.
>When possible, use people-first language
>When possible, ask the source how they would like to be described.
>Avoid made-up words like “diversability” and “handicapable” unless using them as direct quotes or to refer to a movement or organization.
Writing about disability is complicated and requires sensitivity.

Some of the featured terms in the document:

Able-bodied – This term is used to describe someone who does not identify as having  a disability. Members of the disability community oppose it because it implies that all people with disabilities lack “able bodies” for the ability to use
their body well. The word “non-disabled” is preferred.
Afflicted with/Victim of – These terms carry the assumption that a person with a disability is suffering or has a reduced quality of life. Just use simple terms like “has” or “lives with”.
Crazy/loony/mad/psycho – These words were once commonly used to describe people with mental illness. Kinder terms to help reduce stigma would be “mental health” or “mental illness”.
Special Needs – This term was popularized in the U.S. in the early 20th century during a push for special needs education. It is now widely considered offensive because it stigmatizes that which is different. The term “functional needs” is preferred.

You can check out the full dictionary of terms here:

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