AP Style

AP Style terms for disabilities

Avoid describing an individual as disabled unless it is pertinent to a story. If a description is necessary, specify the disability and avoid euphemisms such as mentally challenged and descriptions that suggest pity, such as afflicted with or suffers from. The word handicap should not be used.

Disabled is a general term for a physical or cognitive condition that limits daily activities. Never use mentally retarded. Blind describes a person with total loss of sight. For others, use visually impaired or person with low vision. Similarly, deaf describes a person with total hearing loss. For others, use partial hearing loss or partially deaf. Mute describes a person who physically cannot speak. For others, use speech impaired. A wheelchair-user refers to someone who uses a wheelchair for mobility. If a wheelchair is needed, say why. Do not use confined to a wheelchair or wheelchair-bound.

Proper use:

  • The famed theoretical physicist was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis while still in college. Despite his disability, he has continued to live beyond the life expectancy originally suggested by doctors and has published extensive research on cosmology.
  • After combat injuries left him blind, the U.S. Army veteran had to learn new ways of navigating daily life.

Improper use:

  • The wheelchair-bound student said the new ramp will make accessing the school easier.
  • The deaf child was only able to hear clamorous sounds.
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