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Words not to use: Handicapped

ableism disability words not to use Apr 12, 2022

Did you know? 

The term handicap emerged in the late 19th century. It is derived from a game of chance called “cap in hand,” in which participants would have the same chance of winning.

The term began to be used in horse racing and finally made it way into our speech to describe people with disabilities in the late 19th century. In the increasingly competitive realm of industrialized society, those with disabilities were described as “handicapped in the race of life.”

Yuck, right?

Disabled people are all around us. Many of us live with hidden disabilities. Some of us have visible disabilities. In fact, according to the World Bank some one billion people (that’s BILLION with a B), or 15% of the world's population, experience some form of disability.

And all of us are first and foremost PEOPLE, right?

In general, language that recognizes the person is better than language that reduces someone to a single dimension of their identity.

So, “person with disabilities,” or (for some people) “disabled person,” are preferable terms. And if you’re describing structures or facilities, refer to the structure's accessibility.

Here are some alternatives to using the word "handicapped."

- Disability 

- Person with disabilities

- Disabled person

Also on the do-not-use list:

 “differently-abled,” “crippled,” “victim,” “retarded,” “stricken,” “poor,” "suffering from," "afflicted with," “unfortunate,” or “special needs.”

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