Accessibility terms

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, special needs
Person with autism Autistic person, neurodivergent person Asperger’s
functional needs (or paraphrase according to the specific disability) special needs

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.