Making Extra-Curricular Activities Inclusive

Appropriate Terminology

This section provides suggestions on appropriate terminology to reflect the increased participation by students with disabilities in post-secondary education. These suggestions are intended to encourage and promote a fair and accurate portrayal of persons with disabilities. This information has been referenced, with some modifications, from “A Way with Words and Images”, a publication of the Government of Canada’s Office for Disability Issues.

Instead of… Use…

Hard of hearing (the), hearing impaired

Person who is hard of hearing. These individuals are not deaf and may compensate for a hearing loss with an amplification device or system.

Deaf-mute, deaf and dumb.

Person who is deaf. Culturally-linguistically deaf people (that is, sign language users) are properly identified as “the Deaf” (upper-case “D”). People who do not use sign language are properly referred to as “the deaf” (lower-case “d”) or “people who are deaf.”

Epileptic (the)

Person who has epilepsy

Fit, attack, spell


Handicapped (the)

Person with a disability, unless referring to an environmental attitudinal barrier. In such instances “person who is handicapped by” is appropriate.

Handicapped parking, bathrooms

Accessible parking, bathrooms

Insane (unsound mind), Lunatic, Maniac, Mental patient, Mentally diseased, Neurotic, Psycho, Psychotic

Persons with a mental health disability, person who has schizophrenia, person who has depression. The term “insane” (unsound mind) should only be used in a strictly legal sense.

Invalid Person with a disability.

The literal sense of the word “invalid” is “not valid.”

Learning disabled, learning disordered, the dyslexics.

A person with a learning disability or persons with learning disabilities

Birth defect, congenital defect, deformity

Person born with a disability, person who has a congenital disability

Blind (the), Visually impaired (the)

Person who is blind, person with a visual impairment

Confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair-bound

Person who uses a wheelchair. Wheelchair user for individuals with mobility impairment, a wheelchair is a means to get around independently.

Cripple, crippled, lame

Person with a disability, person with a mobility impairment, person who has a spinal cord injury, arthritis, etc.

Mentally retarded, Defective, Feeble minded, Idiot, Imbecile, Moron, Retarded, Simple, Mongoloid

Person with an intellectual disability. One can say a person with Down’s Syndrome only if relevant to the situation.


What is 'normal'? Persons with disabilities are like everyone else. Use Person without a disability. Normal is only acceptable in reference to statistics (i.e. the norm).


Person with a disability, unless the relationship being referred to is between a doctor and client.

Physically challenged

Person with a disability


Person who has spasms. Spastic should never be used as a noun.

Suffers from, Afflicted by, Stricken with

Person with a disability, person who has cerebral palsy, etc. Having a disability is not synonymous with suffering.

Victim of cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, etc.

Person who has cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, etc. Person with a disability. Person with a mobility impairment.