"The use of certain words or phrases can express gender, ethnic, or racial bias either intentionally or unintentionally. The same is true of language referring to persons with disabilities, which in many instances can express negative and disparaging attitudes.
It is recommended that the word disability be used to refer to an attribute of a person, and handicap to refer to the source of limitations. Sometimes a disability itself may handicap a person, as when a person with one arm is handicapped in playing the violin. However, when the limitation is environmental, as in the case of attitudinal, legal, and architectural barriers, the disability is not handicapping—the environmental factor is. This distinction is important because the environment is frequently overlooked as a major source of limitation, even when it is far more limiting than the disability. Thus, prejudice handicaps people by denying access to opportunities; inaccessible buildings surrounded by steps and curbs handicap people who require the use of a ramp.
Use of the terms nondisabled or persons without disabilities is preferable to the term normal when comparing persons with disabilities with others. Usage of normal makes the unconscious comparison of abnormal, thus stigmatizing those individuals with differences. For example, state "a nondisabled control group," not "a normal control group."
The guiding principle for nonhandicapping language is to maintain the integrity of individuals as whole human beings by avoiding language that
- implies that a person as a whole is disabled (e.g., disabled person)
- equates a person with his or her condition (e.g., epileptic)
- has superfluous, negative overtones (e.g., stroke victim)
- is regarded as a slur (e.g., cripple)."
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