Disability Language Guide

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Disability Language Guide

There are two main ways to write about disability: person-first and identity-first. All three DRAPP organizations use person-first language as a default and that is reflected in this language guide. However, when possible, we ask individuals with whom we are working or writing about which format they prefer.

  • Person-first: “A person with a disability”
  • Identity-first: “A disabled person”

The following list depicts phrases and terms that are generally considered appropriate, as well as terms and phrases to avoid. Please keep in mind that language is constantly evolving and not everyone has the same preference, so the best guideline when referring to people is to ASK.


The above material is adapted from Guidelines for Reporting and Writing about People with Disabilities by the Research and Training Center on Independent Living at The University of Kansas and the National Disability Rights Network’s Words Matter—Guidelines for Reporting and Writing About People with Disabilities. For more information visit www.rtcil.org or ndrn.org.


DRC-NH, in collaboration with the UNH Institute on Disability and the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities, distribute a quarterly RAP sheet to educate community members and policy makers about the latest research, policy, practice, and advocacy issues affecting individuals with disabilities and their families.

Latest RAP Sheet