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Talking About Disabilities

Why is it important to be aware of the words and phrases that we use when talking to disabled people? Do you know the correct terminology to use? Below you will find both recommended terms and terms to avoid.

En familie går tur i parken.

Words convey images and feelings and influence the way people think. The choice of negative language when describing disabled people can injure feelings and create barriers to understanding.


recommend, mandatory, avoid, impairment, afflict, suffer, cripple, invalid, confine, spastic, insane, dumb, mute, restrict, stature, seizure, spell, fit

Read through the terms in the table and then do the tasks which follow.

Recommended Terms

Recommended Norwegian Terms

Terms to Avoid

Norwegian Terms to Avoid

disabled people

the disabled, the handicapped

has + name of impairment

afflicted by, suffers from

disabled person

crippled, invalid, physically handicapped

wheelchair user

confined to a wheelchair

person with cerebral palsy




person with mental condition

mental patient, insane, mad

person with hearing impairment

deaf and dumb, deaf mute

blind people, people with visual impairment

the blind

person with restricted growth or short stature

dwarf midget




What are the equivalent terms in Norwegian? Fill in the table showing the recommended Norwegian terms and those which should be avoided.

If you need some help, click here.
Funksjonshemming - Terminologi
Funksjonshemming - Terminologi


  1. What is the difference between the terms, "disabled people" and "people with disabilities"? Is the one to be preferred over the other?
  2. Many of the terms to be avoided are often found in daily use and in the media. Search the Internet for examples (use some of the words to be avoided as search words) and discuss whether the examples you find are used in a derogatory way.

Recommended Autobiography and Film

My Left Foot by Christy Brown, My Left Foot - Novel, Film and Art.