Respectful, Person-First Language

Person-first language is a respectful way to describe a person and their abilities.

Avoid Use
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.