People First

What is an Intellectual Disability?
An intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills.

What is a Developmental Disability?
A developmental disability is chronic and attributable to a mental or physical impairment or both. The criteria for determining developmental disability are: manifestation before age of 22, unless resulting from head injury that occurs at any age likely to continue indefinitely, substantial limitation in three or more of the following areas - life activity, self care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and/or economic self-sufficiency, need for a combination and sequence of special interdisciplinary care, treatment, or other services which are lifelong or of extended duration.


What do you see first?
The wheelchair? The physical problems? The person?
If you are a person in a wheelchair unable to get up the stairs into a building, would you say, - "there is a handicapped person unable to find a ramp?" Or would you say, "there is a person with a disability who is unable to access a building?" What is the proper way to speak or to introduce someone who has a, disability? Consider how you would introduce someone - Jane Doe - who doesn't have a disability. You would give her name, where she lives, what she does or what she is interested in, she likes swimming, or eating Mexican food, or watching movies. Why say it differently for a person with a disability? Every person is made up of many characteristics - mental as well as physical. Few people want to be identified only by their ability to play tennis or by their love for fried onions. In speaking or writing, remember that children or adults with disabilities are like everyone else except they happen to have a disability. Therefore, here are a few tips for improving your language related to people with disabilities.

  • Speak of the person first, then the disability.
  • Emphasize abilities, not limitations.
  • Do not label people as part of a disability group. Don't say "the disabled." Instead say "people with disabilities."
  • Don't give excessive praise or attention to people with disabilities: don't patronize them.
  • Choice & independence are important. Let the person do or speak for him or herself as much as possible.
  • A disability is a functional limitation that interferes with a person's ability to walk, hear, talk, learn etc.

Say Child with a disability
Person with cerebral palsy
Person who is deaf
Person with intellectual disability
Person with epilepsy
Person who has
Without speech
Developmental delay
Mental illness
Uses a wheelchair
With Down syndrome
Has a learning disability
Without a disability
Has a physical disability
Congenital disability
Cleft lip
Difficulty walking
Medically involved
Has hemoplegia
Has quadriplegia
Has paraplegia
Of short stature
Accessible parking
Instead of Disabled child
CP or spastic
deaf and dumb
retarded or retard
mute or dumb
crazy, insane
confined to a chair
Mongoloid or retard
is learning disabled
normal or healthy
birth defect
fits or spells
dwarf or midget
handicapped parking

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth-2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.

For more information, go to: IDEA - Building The Legacy of IDEA 2004

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