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People-First Language

People-First Language works to put people first instead of their disability. The largest minority group in America are individuals with disabilities (Tobin, 2011). In any community and/or classroom we will encounter people that may have a learning, behavior, or physical disability. People-First Language helps us to focus on the individual rather than defining them by their disability. Below are some examples to People-First Language.

Person-First: YES

Not Person-first: NO

person with an intellectual

Retarded (retarded is considered offensive and a minority slur); mentally disabled or impaired

person with blindness or vision loss

the blind

person with a disability

the disabled; handicapped (handicapped is considered offensive)

person with deafness

deaf and dumb

person with hearing loss

suffers a hearing loss (avoid pity inducing words like suffering, afflicted, bound, etc.)

person with cerebral palsy

CP victim (again, avoid pity inducing words)

person with epilepsy, person with 
seizure disorder

Epileptic (no one wants to be an “ic”)

person who uses a wheelchair

confined or restricted to a wheelchair

person who has muscular dystrophy

stricken by MD

person with a physical disability

crippled; lame (lame is considered offensive); deformed; disabled

unable to speak, uses synthetic speech

dumb; mute

person with psychiatric disability

crazy; nuts

person who is successful, productive



student receiving special education



he participates/doesn’t participate in general education classes

has overcome his/her disability; is courageous (when it implies the person has courage because of having a disability)


special ed kid; special ed student


he’s not in regular ed classes