Person-first language is a respectful way to describe a person and their abilities.
|confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound||people who use wheelchairs, a person who uses a wheelchair|
|handicapped buses, bathrooms, etc.||accessible buses, bathrooms, etc.|
|handicapped parking||accessible parking, reserved parking for people with disabilities|
|indigent, impoverished, needy||people 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 disorder||people 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 elders||people who are older, or aging, older adults|
|substance abuse, alcohol abuse, substance dependence, addiction, addicts||person with a substance use disorder|
|the blind, the deaf||people 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, epileptic||people 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 respectfully 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.