Person-First Language

Person-first language describes a person and their abilities.

confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair boundpeople who use wheelchairs, a person who uses a wheelchair
handicapped buses, bathrooms, etc.accessible buses, bathrooms, etc.
handicapped parkingaccessible parking, reserved parking for people with disabilities
indigent, impoverished, needypeople living in poverty, people who are food insecure
learning disabled, special needs (as an adjective)*has a learning disability
mentally ill, mentally ill people, person with issues, mental health disorderpeople with mental health conditions (if diagnosed), person with mental illness (if diagnosed), symptoms of a mental illness (if not diagnosed), behavioral health needs (if not diagnosed)
old people, old men or women, senior citizens, the elderspeople who are older, or aging, older adults
substance abuse, alcohol abuse, substance dependence, addiction, addictsperson with a substance use disorder
the blind, the deafpeople who are blind, people with visual impairments, people who are deaf, people with hearing impairments, person who is hard of hearing
the disabled, handicapped, crippled, paraplegic, diabetic, epilepticpeople with disabilities, a person with a disability, person with paraplegia, person with diabetes, person with epilepsy
the intellectually disabled, mentally challenged, mentally retarded, people with mental retardation†people with intellectual disabilities (ID), people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)

*The term “special needs” is a euphemism that can have negative connotations. However, it can describe accessibility needs or accommodations for children with disabilities, particularly in regard to receiving services or education (for example: Children with Special Health Care Needs Services). Use “child with special needs” and not “special needs child.” “She has special needs,” not “she is special needs.”

†Several local mental health authorities in Texas still use the abbreviation MHMR (formerly Mental Health Mental Retardation). Do not spell out the abbreviation unless necessary for legal documentation or unless it is accompanied by an explanation of the term’s historical usage.