In general, use people-first language (refer first to the person, followed by the disability). To ensure clarity and consistency, this should be the default unless you know a specific audience prefers otherwise.
In some cases, however, identity-first language can be used, because some people and communities take pride in recognizing their disability as an integral part of their identity and feel that person-first language is marginalizing. Always make an effort to know the preferences expressed by a person with a disability or a disability community and defer to these.
In all cases, don’t use language that has offensive or insensitive connotations, such as maimed or impaired.
The following table lists examples of people-first language (preferred), identity-first language (acceptable, context-dependent), and offensive or insensitive language (never allowed).
|Preferred (people-first)||Acceptable (identity-first)||Do not use (offensive/insensitive)|
|Person who is blind, person with low vision||Blind person||Sight-impaired, vision-impaired|
|Person who is deaf, person with a hearing disability||Deaf person||Hearing-impaired|
|Person with limited mobility, person who has a mobility or physical disability||Physically disabled person, wheelchair user||Crippled, lame, handicapped|
|Is unable to speak, uses sign language, uses synthetic speech||Dumb, mute, non-verbal|
|Has multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, or muscular dystrophy||Affected by, stricken with, suffers from, a victim of, an epileptic|
|Person without a disability||Non-disabled person, able-bodied person||Normal person, healthy person|
|Person with a prosthetic limb, person with a limb difference, person with an amputation||Amputee||Maimed, missing a limb, birth defect|
|Person with a disability||Disabled person||People with handicaps, the handicapped|
|Person with cognitive disabilities, developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, or dyslexia||Learning disabled, dyslexic person||Slow learner, mentally handicapped, differently abled, Special Ed person, stupid|
|Person with autism, person with neurodiversity||Autistic person, neurodiverse person||Asperger’s|
For an overview of Microsoft accessibility policies, see Accessibility guidelines and requirements.
To learn more about writing that conveys respect to all people and promotes equal opportunities, see the Guidelines for Inclusive Language from the Linguistic Society of America.
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