AP Style Disabled, Handicapped

In general, do not describe someone as “disabled” or “handicap” unless it is clearly relevant to the story. If a description must be used, try to be specific. For example,

  • An ad featuring Michael J. Fox swaying noticeably from the effects of Parkinson’s disease drew national attention.

You should avoid descriptions that connote pity, such as “afflicted with,” or “suffers from.” Use instead, “has.” For example,

  • Correct: Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s disease.
  • Wrong: Michael J. Fox suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

Some basic terms include the following,

  • Cripple: Often considered offensive when used to describe a person who is lame or disabled.
  • Disabled: A general term used for a physical, mental, developmental, or intellectual disability. Do not use “mentally retarded.”
  • Handicap: It should be avoided in describing a disability.
  • Blind: Describes a person with complete loss of site. For others, use terms such as “visually impaired” or “person with low vision.”
  • Deaf: Describes a person with total hearing loss. For others, use “partial hearing loss” or “partially deaf.” Avoid using “deaf-mute” Do not use “deaf and dumb.”
  • Mute: Describes a person who physically cannot speak. Others with speaking difficulties are “speech impaired.”
  • Wheelchair User: People use wheelchairs for independent mobility. Do not use “confined to a wheelchair,” or “wheelchair-bound.” If a wheelchair is needed, say why.

See also AP Style Mental Illness

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