Young people with disability just want to be treated like everyone else. When engaging with young people with disability, you have to consider how that person best communicates and how you can respond to that.

–YDAS Co-designer


In Australia, we usually use person-first language. That means we describe the person before we describe the disability. We say ‘person with disability’, ‘person with Cerebral Palsy’ or ‘person who is blind or has low vision’. Some people prefer to call themselves ‘disabled person’. This relates to the social model and how it says that people are not disabled by an impairment they have, rather they are disabled by society. It also reflects the disability pride movement which encourages people to own the label of disability. Just listen to how people describe themselves and, if in doubt, you can ask how they would like to be described – they might just want you to call them by their name!

Definitely avoid euphemisms and made up words that make people with disability seem special such as ‘diffAbled’, ‘people of all abilities’ or ‘differently abled’. Having a disability is normal to people who have them. Having a disability isn’t necessarily bad, it is just a natural part of the human experience.

Instead of using

Try using

‘the blind’ or ‘the deaf’

‘abnormal’ or ‘special’

Person with disability

Person who is blind

Words or phrases with negative connotations

‘crazy’, ‘insane’ or ‘mad’

Use the appropriate clinical name

‘person with schizophrenia’ or ‘person with a mental illness’


‘person who is little’ or ‘person of short stature’

‘wheelchair bound’ – wheelchairs enable people to get around and be a part of society. Not everybody uses a wheelchair permanently

‘wheelchair user’

‘fit’ or ‘attack’


‘suffers from’ or ‘afflicted with’



Some other things to consider:

Read more:

Using inclusive language and disability etiquette – Australian Network on Disability:

Communicating with young people who are deaf/Deaf/hard of hearing – Expression Australia:

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