Disability Language Guide

Understanding the Impact of Language

Language plays a significant role in shaping perceptions and attitudes towards individuals with disabilities. Using respectful and inclusive language shows empathy and promotes equality and inclusion. It is essential to recognise that a person’s disability does not define them as an individual.

Words to Avoid and Acceptable Alternatives:

Acceptable Alternative
Normal person
Person without a disability
Disabled, handicapped
Person with a disability
Person with a disability
Special needs
Person with specific needs
Defected, deformed
Person with a physical disability
Retarded, tard, moron
Person with an intellectual disability
Mongol, mongoloid, mong
Person with Down syndrome
Spastic, spaz
Person with a disability, person with cerebral palsy

How to Communicate with People with Disabilities

When interacting with individuals with disabilities, it is important to approach them with respect and empathy. Here are some guidelines for effective communication:

  • Maintain eye contact when speaking to a person with a disability. This conveys interest and respect.
  • Address the individual directly, avoid speaking to their companion, and do not assume they cannot understand or respond. Treat them as you would anyone else.
  • Avoid making assumptions about what a person with a disability can or cannot do. Instead, ask them if they need assistance before offering help. Respect their autonomy and independence.
  • Do not pat, talk to, or distract guide dogs or service animals. They are working animals and should not be interrupted from their duties.
  • Don’t assume someone with a visual impairment or low vision cannot hear you. Speak in a normal tone unless requested otherwise.

What You Need to Know

Understanding Disability in Our Community

Every individual with a disability possesses a unique story shaped by personal experiences, aspirations, and dreams. Disability might be physical, cognitive, sensory, or psychiatric, but it’s essential to remember that it’s just one facet of a person. In the Greater Sydney Region, we celebrate this diversity, acknowledging the depth and richness it brings to our community tapestry.
This guide helps you use respectful words when talking about disabilities, promoting understanding and respect.
Different kinds of disabilities include physical, intellectual, sensory, and more, each with unique challenges.
We focus on your needs, preferences, and goals to create personalised support that suits you best.
These are numbers that show how many people have disabilities and help us understand their experiences and needs.
These are rules that ensure disability services are safe, high-quality, and accountable to provide the best care.