In most ways students with disabilities are just like other
students. They have the same needs and desires. They need to be
challenged, to be part of a group, to be accepted, and to succeed.
Most students with disabilities wish to be treated as individuals
and do not wish to be singled out or stereotyped because of their
disabilities. The following general considerations may assist
students with disabilities and help to ensure that they have
equitable access to educational opportunities.
Language plays a key role in creating and maintaining
attitudinal barriers that are harmful to persons with disabilities.
There are specific words used to describe individuals with
disabilities (cripple, moron, Mongoloid, junkie, victim, etc.) that
have extremely negative connotations and are very stigmatizing.
Such language has a devaluing or dehumanizing effect because it
focuses on the disability rather than the person with a
The following is a list of unacceptable and preferred language
to use when referring to persons with disabilities.
||Person with a disability
||Person with Down's syndrome
|Blind, deaf, retard
||Person with a visual impairment, hearing disability Person with
an Intellectual Disability
||Client, individual, consumer
|Confined to a wheelchair
|Person who uses a wheelchair
Deaf and dumb, deaf-mute
|Person with a hearing and/or speech impairment
||Person with Cerebral Palsy
||Person with a Seizure Disorder
In general, try to mention the person first, and then, if
necessary, the disability. Think about your language and how it
impacts the person to whom you are referring. Does it suggest a
victim or an object of sympathy? Does it focus on a person's
disability? If either is true, you need to revise your language
choice. ( Disabling Myths , Altman, et. Al.)
We may hold attitudes that distort our relations with people who
have disabilities. Such attitudes often derive from fears, guilt,
or inexperience in working with individuals who have disabilities.
These forms of prejudice, distortions and fears can be devastating
to the person with a disability. These perceptions reduce our
expectations of an individual's performance. Negative perceptions
may also lead to the isolation and segregation of people with
disabilities. Such actions can hurt a person's pride and damage
their confidence. In fact, these incorrect attitudes may be more
disabling than any other condition.
Stereotyping is prevalent throughout society. Its presence on
college campuses is not surprising. While stereotypes of all kinds
can be destructive, stereotypes within the college environment may
undermine the scholastic performance of the student. In addition,
such misconceptions may reinforce negative attitudes the student is
working hard to overcome. Because of the detrimental role
stereotyping can play in the experience of a disabled student, we
must become more aware of such misconceptions and work to eliminate
them from the system.
Three stereotypes or myths are common regarding
people with disabilities:
- The Myth of the Helpless Invalid which assumes
that the person with a disability is unable to do anything without
- The Myth of the Heroic Cripple which places
the person with a disability on a pedestal, making it difficult for
him or her to assimilate and function.
- The "Spread" Phenomenon which generalizes from
a single disability and assumes there are also intellectual,
social, and additional physical deficits. An example would be
shouting at a person with a visual impairment.