Disability vocabulary

Working within the disability sector the language around people with disabilities becomes second nature. Every now and then we get an enquiry in, or look at the search terms people use to find us and are surprised by the terms people are using.

Digital accessibility is full of acronyms and learning the lingo is bad enough, but then add in worrying if the term you are referring to people or situations will be deemed offensive or politically incorrect can often stop people from reaching out and asking for help. So we’ve looked at the most used terms from those first time customers to help you talk about disabilities and accessibility with confidence.

animation picture of a team of people

We’re not here to judge you, we’re here to help – from disability friendly websites to websites for the disabled. We’ll have your digital offerings inclusive, accessible and usable by disabled people – as well as support you around language. We’d love for you to have the confidence to ask for help where needed and know that no question is a stupid one – all that matters is you want to improve your customer experience for all your customers.

We offer:

Onsite consultancy services for accessibility testing as well as remote testing for all platforms including desktop, mobile sites and apps  – from a new feature to a whole website audit

Staff training at your offices with a focus on your learning outcomes and current projects

To avoid negativity and exclusion, the UK government and other accessibility experts have come up with different words and expressions, that should be used to promote equal opportunities and diversity in society:



The handicapped, the disabled disabled (people)
afflicted by, suffers from, has [name of condition or impairment]
mentally handicapped, mentally defective, retarded, subnormal with a learning disability (singular) with learning disabilities (plural)
cripple, invalid disabled person
Spastic person with cerebral palsy
able-bodied non-disabled
mental patient, insane, mad person with a mental health condition
deaf and dumb; deaf mute deaf, user of British Sign Language (BSL), person with a hearing impairment
the blind people with visual impairments; blind people; blind and partially sighted people, the users of assistive technologies.
fits, spells, attacks seizures
people with a visual processing deficit, cognitive disabilities
Wheelchair mobility aid
Inferior, different Inclusive
Exclusion Diversity:
Inaccessible, non-intuitive Inclusive design:

Resources used