Guidance on How to Write and Speak About Accessibility

People with disabilities and older adults, like other under-served groups, are actively seeking full civil rights including participation in the arts as creators, audiences, staff, board members, panelists, volunteers, teachers, and students.

The way you portray people in what you write or say may enhance their dignity and promote positive attitudes. For example, refer to a person first, rather than a disability; this emphasizes the person’s worth and abilities.

Politically correct vocabularies are constantly changing…but the following five “NEVER USERS” are here to stay!


NEVER use the word “handicapped”; the word is disability.

NEVER use a disability as an adjective. It is not a blind actor, but an actor who is blind. The focus should be on the person, NOT the disability.

NEVER use “special”; this separates the individual from the group. You do not require information regarding “special needs of the group,” but “needs of the group.” No “special” tours, but tours that include people with disabilities.

NEVER use euphemisms, such as “physically challenged,” “handicapable,” etc.; these suggest that barriers are good or that disabilities exist to build the person’s character. The person has a disability.

NEVER use “clumping” or labels: “the disabled”; “the blind”; “the deaf”; “A.B.s” (able-bodied); “T.A.B.s” (temporarily able-bodied); or “normal.” Labeling people is never acceptable. Able-bodied is a relative, judgmental term. “Normal” is acceptable when applied to statistical norms and averages only.