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Santa Monica College|Student Services|Disability Resources|General Etiquette

General Etiquette

As an educator and a professional, you should be aware that your behavior and the language
you use can create a negative or positive view of people with disabilities. The following
guidelines, reflecting input from over 100 national disability organizations and experts,
may help you to project a sensitive non-discriminatory manner.
          Put people first, not their disability.
          Emphasize abilities, not limitations….
          Show people with disabilities as active participants…
          Be supportive, but not overly solicitous

      DO NOT
          Use generic labels for disability groups
          Focus on the disability --focus, instead, on the issues
          Refer to people with disabilities as patients or "cases"

      Preferred Language
      People with disabilities:
            - prefer to be called "people with disabilities," not "disabled people"
            -are not conditions or diseases; they are individuals first and only
             secondarily do they have one or more disabling conditions.
   ACCEPTABLE/Preferred TERMS                     
                   UNACCEPTABLE TERMS                                  
Person/persons with a disability Handicap, handicapped person
People with cerebral palsy, people with a spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy, etc.
Cerebral palsied, spinal cord injured people, etc. Never identify people solely by their disability.
Deafness/hearing impairment "Deafness" refers to a person who has partial loss of hearing within a range of mild to severe. Deaf and dumb--is as bad as it sounds. Inability to hear or speak does not suggest less intelligence.
Person with a speech disorder, or person without speech. Dumb [see above]; mute
Person who has a mental or psychiatric disability, or emotional disorder. Psycho, nut, lunatic, crazy, schizo, psychiatric, schizophrenic
Person who has a mental or developmental disability.   Retarded
Uses a wheelchair or crutches; a wheelchair user; walks with crutches   Confined/Restricted to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound. Most people who use a wheelchair or mobility devices do not regard them as confining
Stroke/Cancer survivor   Stroke/Cancer Victim
People who do not have a disability; non-disabled People who do not have a disability - Normal--When in use as the opposite of "disabled," implies the person with a disability is abnormal. Also inappropriate are "able-bodied" "healthy" or "whole."
Adapted from Oklahoma Disability Etiquette Handbook, from the Office of Handicapped
Concerns, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1993 and Guidelines for Reporting and Writing about
People with Disabilities , University of Kansas -Research and Training center on Independent
Living, 1996)

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