Salt Lake City

City Accessibility - Communication, Language & Etiquette

"People First Language"

When speaking or writing about disabilities, always use "People First Language." People First Language puts the person before the disability, and it describes what a person has, not who a person is.  Is a person “handicapped/disabled” or does he/she have a disability?  The former characterizes the person by the disability while the latter emphasizes the person and mentions the disability as a part of his/her life.  Always put the person before the disability by using phrases such as:

  • People with disabilities.
  • Disability community.
  • He has a cognitive disability.
  • Woman who is blind.
  • Man with a physical disability.
  • She uses a wheelchair chair. 

Here are some additional terms to consider:

"Handicapped" is an archaic term—it’s no longer used in any federal legislation, and should not be used.   The "handicapped" descriptor is often used for parking spaces, hotel rooms, restrooms, etc.  But most accommodations so designated provide access for people with physical or mobility needs. The accurate term for modified parking spaces, hotel rooms, etc., is "accessible."  Always use "accessible," not "handicapped."

"Disabled" is also not appropriate. Traffic reporters frequently say, "disabled vehicle."  In that context, "disabled" means "broken down."  People with disabilities are not broken!  Always use "disability," not "disabled."

Guides

Bus Operator's Guide (pdf) (June 2010) published by the Easter Seals Project Action.

Law Enforcement Guide (pdf) (Jan 2006) published by the U.S. Justice Department.

Meeting Etiquette Guide (pdf) (Nov 2011) published by the Easter Seals Project Action.

Reaching Out to Customers online guide provided by the U.S. Justice Department.

Taxi Cab Operator's Guide (pdf) (Jan 2010) published by the Easter Seals Project Action.