Writing about Disability
Style guides often have general suggestions for writing about disability:
- American Psychological Association (APA) guide to "non-handicapping" language
- Chicago Manual of Style (requires a subscription) and the book is available in bookstores - look up "avoiding biased language"
- Modern Language Association (MLA) Style Guide (no information about biased language is available)
The National Center on Disability and Journalism has numerous resources, including a disability style guide and tips for interviewing people with disabilities; useful for researchers and academics as well as journalists and members of the media. This includes information about euphemisms, special education language, or dated terms like "special needs," "differently abled," or "handicapped." There is even a movement called #SayTheWord encouraging people to say the word "disability" instead of avoiding it or talking about it like an inherently bad thing.
While most nondisabled people should use "person-first language " when writing about disability, many people with disabilities are using "disability-first language" when writing about themselves and their experience, including Emily Ladau and Lydia Brown . There's more general information about the disability-first/person-first language in this guide by the Syracuse University disability cultural center . The Association on Higher Education And Disability has also published its guidelines for language use , noting that it uses disability-first language in its communication.
The word "retarded" is referred to as "The R-Word" by people with disabilities - learn why at "Spread the Word to End the Word "
Culturally Deaf people who use American Sign Language use the capital "D" in the word "Deaf" , while "deaf" refers to people who cannot hear but are not ASL users or members of Deaf culture, as well as the broader deaf community that includes interpreters and other hearing people who sign (and by the way, the same link to the National Association of the Deaf also describes why "hearing impaired" and "deaf-mute" are not acceptable)
Disabled people are re-claiming some words that used to be derogatory, like "crip" - to learn more watch either of these films - "Vital Signs: Crip Culture Talks Back" or "Disability Culture Rap" via the YouTube links.
Disability Culture Rap - Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/embed/j75aRfLsH2Y