People First Language

What is people first language?

People First Language (PFL) was developed to respectfully speak about people with disabilities. The number one focus of PFL is putting the
person before his/her disability because the disability is only a small part of the whole person. PFL highlights a person’s strengths, abilities
and potential to succeed instead of labeling the individual or confining the person to an established stereotype.

Remember: concentrate on the person, not the disability!


Instead of

Children (or people) with disabilities the disabled, the handicapped
He has a disability he’s disabled; he’s handicapped
She has a cognitive disability my daughter is retarded
People with cognitive disabilities the (mentally) retarded
She has Down syndrome she’s Down’s; she’s mongoloid
My son has autism my son is autistic
He has a learning disability he’s learning disabled; he’s LD
She has a physical disability she’s a quadriplegic or a cripple
My son has a physical disability my son is disabled
She is of short stature she’s a dwarf
She has an emotional disability she’s emotionally disturbed
He uses a wheelchair (or mobility chair) he’s confined to a wheelchair he’s wheelchair bound
Typical children; kids without disabilities normal kids or healthy kids
He receives special ed services he’s in special ed
He needs behavior supports he has behavior problems
He has a brain injury He’s brain damaged
Accessible parking/bathroom handicapped parking/bathroom
She needs… She uses… she has a problem with… she can’t