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Mind Your Language

Frances Strong

Many words used to describe disability are outdated, inaccurate and stem from fears and misconceptions. These words are not consistent with the reality of being disabled or the way people with disabilities view their lives. They create attitudinal barriers which are often more handicapping than the actual disability. Because of their extremely negative connotations, many of these words support arguments for allowing the death of newborn disabled babies, newly disabled people and people in nursing homes. When words portray disability as so tragic that life is no longer worth living, death seems the only merciful alternative. The following list can help you ensure that your words accurately reflect the attitudes you wish to express. Negative words are explained, followed by suggested alternatives.

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