Using People First Language


March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness month, a time to recognize and celebrate individuals with developmental disabilities and the contributions they make to our communities.  LSG aims to treat people with disabilities with the utmost respect and help them live full, meaningful lives in a safe, welcoming environment.  Through our FACES program, we match those with developmental and physical disabilities with support companions, allowing them to live in a home setting and be active participants in their community.

To create a more respectful and welcoming society, experts who work with populations with disabilities have long advocated for using People First language.  According to the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, People First Language (PFL) is a way of communicating that reflects knowledge and respect for people with disabilities by choosing words that recognize the person first and foremost as the primary reference and not his or her disability. (

Often times individuals with disabilities are identified by their disability first; they may be called a handicapped or a disabled person. People First Language puts the person before the disability and it describes what a person has, not what a person is.

LSG is pleased that just this week Georgia lawmakers voted on a bill that would change outdated language in our code and substitute it with wording that shows respect and dignity.  The bill would replace the words "mental retardation"  and "mentally retarded" with "intellectual disability."  

Are you using People First language when describe those with disabilities or illnesses?  Here's a guide to help you out.

People First Language Preferred Expression 


Instead of: 

 handicapped child or disabled

  palsied, CP or spastic

afflicted, suffers from, victim of

mute or dumb


slow or retarded

crazy or insane

deaf and dumb

confined to a wheelchair


mongoloid, suffers from Down syndrome

is learning disabled

is physically disabled/crippled

invalid or paralytic




child with a disability

individual with cerebral palsy

person who has….

nonverbal (with speech)

child(ren) with autism

developmental delay

emotional disorder/mental illness 

deaf or has a hearing impairment

 uses a wheelchair

has a cognitive or intellectual disability

adult with Down syndrome

has a learning disability

has a physical disability


Has quadriplegia

Has paraplegia