Writing about disabilities

Date adopted: 
December 11, 2019
Last update: 
February 15, 2023

Always put the person first, not someone’s condition or whether they use a particular aid or tool. Stress people’s abilities rather than their disabilities and only refer to someone’s disability if it’s relevant.

Avoid phrases such as “the disabled” and “the blind” because they lump people into a type. Also avoid “handicapped” as it is considered offensive by many people.

Use language that respects people with disabilities as active individuals who have control over their lives.

Not: handicapped, afflicted with a disability, confined to a wheelchair, wheel-chair bound
But: an individual living with a disability, people with disabilities, disabled people, people with visual impairments, people with hearing impairments, people who are differently abled, people who are cognitively impaired

If you need specific information, for example if you are organizing an event, you can ask questions such as: “Do you need wheelchair access?” or “Do you have any audio or visual requirements?”

Not: handicapped parking
But: accessible parking


Capitalize Deaf when you’re referring to people who are part of Deaf Culture. For example:

The American Sign Language Interpreting Program will benefit the Deaf community in Yukon.

Also capitalize “Sign language” and “Sign languages”.

Canadian Association of the Deaf website

Writing inclusively

View the writing inclusively guidance.