CU Leader Resources

What do I say?

Jesus said that the words we speak come out of the overflow of our hearts.  This is why language matters.

The way we speak about people betrays the attitudes that are in our hearts towards them. When a disabled student turns up at your CU some people might be worried about saying the wrong thing for fear of giving offence.  So here are some pointers.

Don't say cripple                                         Say instead disabled person

Don't say handicapped                               Say instead disabled person

Don't say mentally retarded                        Say instead person with learning disabilities

Don't say mentally handicapped                Say instead person with learning disabilities

Don't say deaf aid                                       Say instead hearing aid

Don't say the disabled                                Say instead disabled people

Don't say suffering from....                          Say instead person with ....

Don't say a victim of....                                Say instead person with ....

Don't say confined to a wheelchair             Say instead wheelchair-user

Don't say wheelchair-bound                       Say instead wheelchair-user

'Handicapped' smacks of a time when disabled people could only sit begging for a living, in hopes that you would put your hand in their cap with some money for them.  And we wouldn’t lump 'the blue-eyed' or 'the left handed' all together as one group, so neither should we with 'the disabled'.  'Crippled' and 'retarded' are outdated terms from a time when non-disabled people assumed superiority, 'victim' implies a passivity that certainly would not have enabled someone to overcome their impairment and get to university.  And just because someone has a disability, that doesn’t mean they’re 'suffering' from it – they might be happier than you are!  A wheelchair liberates someone and enables them to get out and about, it doesn’t bind or confine.

Read our resources for supporting and including students with specific disabilities. 

To read this article in full, and other articles on including disabled students, download the student version of Through the Roof's publication Be a Roofbreaker for just £3.

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