AP Stylebook: Disabilities
Unless you are referring to any disability type, be specific about which disability you are referring to.

If data on disability will be reported, please contact the Office of Equity Diversity and Inclusion for the federally recognized disability categories.

Disability vs. handicap

Use disability instead of handicap.

Disability-related metaphors

Avoid using disability as a metaphor, which perpetuates negative and disempowering views of people with disabilities.

Below are some disability-related metaphors and their alternatives:

  • Blind to/deaf to → willfully ignorant, deliberately ignoring
  • Crazy/schizophrenic → wild, confusing, unpredictable
  • Lame → boring, uninteresting, monotonous, uncool
  • OCD → fastidious, meticulous, hyper-focused
  • Cripples the service → slows down the service
  • Sanity-check → check for completeness and clarity
  • Stutter step, stuttering used as a verb to denote slowness, choppiness → sidestep, dodge, with hesitation

Needs, differences vs. deficit, defect

In general, do not use terms like deficit, defect, abnormality, or problem when talking about people, particularly in mental health. Instead, use needs, differences, or challenges. The term disability is accepted and it may help to be more specific (e.g., intellectual disability, physical disability, language disability, etc.).

It is acceptable and helpful to use terms like abnormality or problem when referring to measurable medical incidences like abnormality of the fingers or breathing problems/difficulties.

Nondisabled person, person without disabilities vs. normal

When comparing persons with disabilities to others, use the term nondisabled person or person without disabilities rather than normal person, because normal is associated with abnormal.

When referring to someone without intellectual disabilities, use without [disorder], or neurotypical instead of normal.

Person who uses a wheelchair vs. wheelchair bound

Use person who uses a wheelchair or wheelchair user rather than wheelchair bound or confined to a wheelchair. Assistive technologies and services should be portrayed as helping and accommodating a person rather than making them “correct” or emphasizing limitation.

Person with disabilities vs. handicapped

Use person with disabilities or disabled person instead of handicapped, handi-capable, differently abled, or the disabled. Community preference for person-first or identity-first varies.

This page last reviewed on May 18, 2023