Finding the right words

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The language we use about disability is an important way of influencing our own and society’s attitudes. The list below is intended to help you and it reflects the views of disabled people themselves and in particular young wheelchair users.

Instead of using words that are passive 'victim' words (handicapped, for example, has its roots in the idea of asking for charity, “cap in hand”), we would recommend using the suggested words below, which respect disabled people as active individuals with control over their own lives.

General terms 

  • Instead of handicapped person / child, use disabled person / child. 
  • Instead of able bodied, non disabled
  • Instead of the disabled, use disabled person / children.
  • Instead of using affected by, suffers from, a victim of or has a disease, use has the condition, has an impairment, has cerebral palsy / spina bifida. 
  • Instead of using cripple, invalid or sufferer, use disabled person / child.
  • Instead of using confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound, use a wheelchair user.
  • Instead of spastic, use has cerebral palsy.
  • Instead of special needs, use specific needs.
  • Instead of integration, use inclusion.
  • Instead of disabled toilets, use accessible toilets. 

​Whizz-Kidz specific terms 

  • Instead of children with disabilities, use disabled children. 
  • Instead of mobility aids, use wheelchairs, tricycles or mobility equipment. 
  • Instead of chair, use wheelchair.
  • Instead of electric chair, use powered wheelchair. 

Whizz-Kidz terminology

Correct spellings for the following (please note capitals, hyphens, number of zs and so on):


Disabled children or children with disabilities?

'Disabled children' (or people) is preferred because it acknowledges that the biggest difficulty for disabled people lies in society’s attitudes i.e. that it is society that is disabling the person or child, whereas 'children with disabilities' can be seen to place the problem solely with the individual.

Specific Needs or Special Needs

We all have the same needs – to eat, to drink etc. Disabled people are disadvantaged if their needs are not met, the same as you would be. There is nothing ‘special’ about needing Braille, or needing to use a wheelchair to get around. 'Special needs' is still widely used and considered acceptable. However, an alternative is 'specific needs' (or more formally 'access requirements').