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Disability Communication: Etiquette and Communication Methods

Disabled World (

Revised/Updated: Saturday, 4th April 2020


Information concerning appropriate methods and etiquette when communicating with a person with a disability or health condition.

Key Points:

Main Document

The word "Etiquette", is defined as a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. Manners is a term usually preceded by the word good or bad to indicate whether or not a behavior is socially acceptable.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, other laws, and the efforts of many disability organizations have made strides in improving accessibility in buildings, increasing access to education, opening employment opportunities and developing realistic portrayals of persons with disabilities in television programming and motion pictures.

Where progress is still needed is in communication and interaction with people with disabilities. Individuals are sometimes concerned that they will say the wrong thing, so they say nothing at all - thus further segregating people with disabilities. Listed here are some suggestions on how to relate to and communicate with and about people with disabilities.

Further, words like "normal person" imply that the person with a disability isn't normal, whereas "person without a disability" is descriptive but not negative. We must keep in mind that the people first disability rights movement and its thinking is almost unknown outside the movement itself, and many people with disabilities themselves, say that "People First Language" is actually a waste of time, unable to prevail in the goal it sets out to do by its very nature, and that people first language actually sets us back in the goal of integration and equality for people with disabilities - People First Language: An Oppositional Viewpoint.

Six students practice their communication skills - Photo by Akson on Unsplash.
Six students practice their communication skills - Photo by Akson on Unsplash.

Tips for Communicating with Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities

Tips for Communicating with Individuals Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Tips for Communicating with Individuals with Speech Impairments

Tips for Communicating with Individuals Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Tips for Communicating with Individuals with Mobility Impairments

General Tips for Communicating with People with Disabilities

Points to Remember

Positive Speech Examples Vs. Negative Speech
Affirmative PhrasesNegative Phrases
person with an intellectual, cognitive, developmental disability retarded; mentally defective
person who is blind, person who is visually impaired the blind
person with a disability the disabled; handicapped
person who is deaf the deaf; deaf and dumb
person who is hard of hearing suffers a hearing loss
person who has multiple sclerosis afflicted by MS
person with cerebral palsy CP victim
person with epilepsy, person with
seizure disorder
person who uses a wheelchair confined or restricted to a wheelchair
person who has muscular dystrophy stricken by MD
person with a physical disability, physically disabled crippled; lame; deformed
unable to speak, uses synthetic speech dumb; mute
person with psychiatric disability crazy; nuts
person who is successful, productive has overcome his/her disability

*Some information from the Office of Disability Employment Policy and The U.S. Department of Labor

Subtopics and Associated Subjects

Related Information

Disability Communication List : RSS

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Disabled World is strictly a news and information website provided for general informational purpose only and does not constitute medical advice. Materials presented are in no way meant to be a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Any 3rd party offering or advertising on does not constitute endorsement by Disabled World.

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