Style Guide

General

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
This federal civil rights legislation was created in 1990 to address discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications as well as state and local government services. ADA is acceptable on second reference. The ADA home page is located at: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm.

Developmental disabilities
This phrase was generated from the Developmental Disabilities Act. It is an umbrella term that is often generalized to mean more than the federal and/or state legal definitions. The legal definition can vary from state to state.

The term generally is used to refer to individuals whose disabilities, acquired at birth or in childhood, affect development. The federal definition is: “Developmental disabilities are chronic mental and/or physical disabilities which manifest before age 22 and result in functional limitations in at least three of the following areas of life activity: self-care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. Individuals with developmental disabilities require lifelong or extended individual support. Conditions include, but are not limited to autism, mental retardation, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.”

Disability, disabled Conforms with AP style guide
Disability, disabled* Words that generally describe functional limitations that affect one or more of the major life activities, including walking, lifting, learning, breathing, etc. Different laws define disability differently.

When describing an individual, do not reference his or her disability unless it is clearly pertinent to a story. If it is pertinent, it is best to use language that refers to the person first and the disability second. For example: “The writer, who has a disability” as opposed to “The disabled writer.”

Disability and people who have disabilities are not monolithic. Avoid referring to “the disabled” in the same way that you would avoid referring to “the Asians,” “the Jews” or “the African-Americans.” Instead, consider using such terms as “the disability community,” or “the disability activist.”

Afflicted with (also see “stricken with,” “suffers from,” “victim of”), Conforms with AP style guide
These terms carry the assumption that a person with a disability is suffering or living a reduced quality of life. Not every person with a disability “suffers,” is a “victim” or is “stricken.” It is preferable to use neutral language when describing a person who has a disability, simply stating the facts about the nature of the disability. For example, “He has muscular dystrophy.”

Defect, defective
Avoid using these words to describe a disability. An example that could be considered offensive is: “She suffers from a defective leg.” Instead, state the nature of the disability or injury.

Handicap, handicapped Conforms with AP style guide
These words should be avoided in describing a person but are appropriate when citing laws, regulations, places or things, such as “handicapped parking.”

Invalid
Avoid using this word to describe a person with a disability. It implies that a person has no abilities and no sense of self, whereas this is rarely the case for the vast majority of persons with disabilities.

Special, special needs
Avoid using these terms when describing a person with a disability or the programs designed to serve them, with the exception of government references or formal names of organizations and programs. It is more accurate to use the term “specific,” “specific accommodation” or “disability,” depending on the context.

Stricken with (“afflicted with,” “suffers from,” “victim of”)
These terms carry the assumption that a person with a disability is suffering or living a reduced quality of life. Not every person with a disability “suffers,” is a “victim” or is “stricken.” It is preferable to use neutral language when describing a person who has a disability, simply stating the facts about the nature of the disability. For example, “He has muscular dystrophy.”

Suffers from (“afflicted with,” “stricken with,” “victim of”), Conforms with AP style guide
These terms carry the assumption that a person with a disability is suffering or living a reduced quality of life. Not every person with a disability “suffers,” is a “victim” or is “stricken.” It is preferable to use neutral language when describing a person who has a disability, simply stating the facts about the nature of the disability. For example, “He has muscular dystrophy.”

Non-disabled (also see “able-bodied”)
Refers to a person who does not have a disability. Can also use “does not have a disability.”

Able-bodied (also known as: “AB”)
Refers to a person who does not have a disability. The term implies that all people with disabilities lack “able bodies” or the ability to use their bodies well. The term “non-disabled” or the phrase “does not have a disability” is the most neutral.

Temporarily able-bodied (TAB)
This term should be avoided as it implies that sooner or later everyone will acquire some kind of disability.

Service Animal (“assistance animal,” “guide dog,” “seeing eye dog”)
Trained animals, mostly dogs, providing services to people with disabilities.

Federal definition: Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling awheelchair, or fetching dropped items. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA, regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. For more information, go to http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm.

Assistance animal (also see “guide dog,” “seeing eye dog,” “service animal”)
Currently, there is no uniform terminology. Trained animals, mostly dogs, provide services to people with disabilities. These services include, but are not limited to, fetching objects for those who use wheelchairs, providing visual clues for those who are blind or alerting deaf individuals to household audio clues.

Guide dogs (also see “assistance animal,” “seeing eye dog,” “service animal”)
Currently, there is no uniform terminology. Trained animals, mostly dogs, provide services to people with disabilities. These services include, but are not limited to, fetching objects for those who use wheelchairs, providing visual clues for those who are blind or alerting deaf individuals to household audio clues.

Seeing eye dog (also see “assisstance animal,” “guide dog,” “service animal”), Conforms with AP style guide
This is a trademark for a guide dog trained by Seeing Eye Inc. of Morristown, N.J. For more information, go to http://www.seeingeye.org.

Veg, vegetable, vegetative state Does not follow AP style
These terms are technically inaccurate when used to describe people without physical, sensory or cognitive functioning. It is preferable to use precise medical terminology or, if that is not possible, general terms such as “comatose” or “non-responsive.”

Physical Disability

Cerebral palsy (CP)
Do not refer to a person with CP as a “cerebral palsy victim,” “cerebral palsied,” “spastic” or “a CP” because these terms define the individual only in terms of their physicality. As when describing people with any kind of disability, the term “CP” should be used to describe the disability but not the person. Do not refer to a person’s disability unless it is relevant to the story. Phrases such as “she has cerebral palsy” are best.

Congenital disability
A person who has a congenital disability has had a disability since birth. Avoid the terms “defect,” “birth defect” or “defective” when describing a disability. Use “has a congenital disability,” “has had a disability since birth” or “was born with a disability.” Mention the disability only when it is pertinent to the story.

Developmental disabilities
This phrase was generated from the Developmental Disabilities Act. It is an umbrella term that is often generalized to mean more than the federal and/or state legal definitions. The legal definition can vary from state to state.

The term generally is used to refer to individuals whose disabilities, acquired at birth or during childhood, affect development. The federal definition is as follows: “Developmental disabilities are chronic mental and/or physical disabilities which manifest before age 22 and result in functional limitations in at least three of the following areas of life activity: self-care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. Individuals with developmental disabilities require lifelong or extended individual supports. Conditions include, but are not limited to autism, mental retardation, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.”

Spastic
Avoid this word when describing a person with cerebral palsy or another disability. Muscles, not people, are spastic. Referring to someone as a “spaz” is equally inappropriate.

Congenital disability
A person who has a congenital disability has had a disability since birth. Avoid the terms “defect,” “birth defect” or “defective” when describing a disability. Use “has had a congenital disability,” “has had a disability since birth” or “was born with a disability.” Mention the disability only when it is pertinent to the story.

Birth defect
Avoid the term “defect” or “defective” when describing a disability because it indicates that the person is somehow incomplete or sub-par. It is preferable to use terms that simply state the facts about the nature of the disability when appropriate, such as: “congenital disability,” “born with a disability,” or “disability since birth.”

Defect, defective
Avoid using these words to describe a disability. An example that could be considered offensive is: “She suffers from a defective leg.” Instead state the nature of the disability or injury.

Deformed
It is preferable to name the disability than to refer to someone as deformed.

Down syndrome Conforms with AP style guide
Not “Down’s Syndrome” for the genetic, chromosomal disorder first reported in 1866 by Dr. J. Langdon Down. The preferred term is “a person with Down syndrome,” as opposed to “Down syndrome child.” Avoid using the word “mongoloid.” A syndrome is not a disease or illness; it is not contagious.

Infantile paralysis Conforms with AP style guide
The preferred term is “polio.” It is more accurate to say “He had polio as a child” or “She contracted polio as an adult from a vaccine” rather than “He suffers from polio.”

Injuries Conforms with AP style guide
Injuries are “sustained” or “received,” not “suffered.”

Lame
Avoid using this word when referencing a person. Both people with and without disabilities may be offended when “lame” is used in colloquial English, as in “That’s a lame excuse.”

Little people/person
These words refer to people of short stature and have come into common use since the founding of the Little People of America organization. The appropriateness of the terms is disputed by those within and outside of the organization. Proponents support a move away from the medical terminology of “dwarf” and “midget.” When writing about people of short stature, it is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Dwarf (also see “short stature,” “little person/people”)
This is a medical condition sometimes applied to people who are of short stature and should be avoided unless it is being used in a quote or in a medical diagnosis. In general, avoid medical model terms when describing the experience of living with a disability. Instead use: “short stature” or “little person/people.” It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Midget (also see “dwarf,” “short stature,” “little people/person”)
This is widely considered a derogatory word for people of short stature or a little person.

Short stature (“little people/person”)
This is the preferred term, along with “little people/person” instead of the medical terms of “dwarf” and “midget.” It is best to avoid using medical model terms when describing the experience of living with a disability. Some people prefer “short stature” instead of “little people/person.” It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Paraplegic
Sometimes people with paraplegia or who are paraplegic will refer to themselves as a “para.” If so, use in quotes. Otherwise, spell out.

Quadriplegia
Sometimes people with quadriplegia refer to themselves as “quads.” If so, use in quotes. Otherwise, spell out.

Service Animal (“assistance animal,” “guide dog,” “seeing eye dog”)
Trained animals, mostly dogs, providing services to people with disabilities.

Federal definition: Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling awheelchair, or fetching dropped items. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA, regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. For more information, go to http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm.

Assistance animal (also see “guide dog,” “seeing eye dog,” “service animal”)
Currently, there is no uniform terminology. Trained animals, mostly dogs, provide services to people with disabilities. These services include, but are not limited to, fetching objects for those who use wheelchairs, providing visual clues for those who are blind or alerting deaf individuals to household audio clues.

Guide dogs (also see “assistance animal,” “seeing eye dog,” “service animal”)
Currently, there is no uniform terminology. Trained animals, mostly dogs, provide services to people with disabilities. These services include, but are not limited to, fetching objects for those who use wheelchairs, providing visual clues for those who are blind or alerting deaf individuals to household audio clues.

Short stature (“little people/person”)
This is the preferred term, along with “little people/person” instead of the medical terms of “dwarf” and “midget.” Do not use medical model terms when describing the experience of living with a disability. Some people prefer “short stature” instead of “little people/person.” It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Dwarf (also see “short stature,” “little person/people”)
This is a medical condition sometimes applied to people who are of short stature and should be avoided unless it is being used in a quote or in a medical diagnosis. In general, avoid medical model terms when describing the experience of living with a disability. Instead use: “short stature” or “little person/people.” It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Little people/person
These words refer to people of short stature and have come into common use since the founding of the Little People of America organization. The appropriateness of the terms is disputed by those within and outside of the organization. Proponents support a move away from the medical terminology of “dwarf” and “midget.” When writing about people of short stature, it is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Midget (also see “dwarf,” “short stature,” “little people/person”)
This is widely considered a derogatory word for people of short stature or a little person.

Vertically challenged
These terms are technically inaccurate when used to describe people without physical, sensory or cognitive functioning. It is preferable to use precise medical terminology or, if that is not possible, general terms such as “comatose” or “non-responsive.”

Veg, vegetable, vegetative state Does not follow AP style
These terms are technically inaccurate when used to describe people without physical, sensory or cognitive functioning. It is preferable to use precise medical terminology or, if that is not possible, general terms such as “comatose” or “non-responsive.”

Wheelchair
Unless mentioning a wheelchair is essential to the story, leave it out. Avoid using “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair-bound” as it implies a judgment. Similarly, avoid phrases such as “wheelchair-rider” and “vertically challenged.” Non-users often associate wheelchairs with illness and aging and regard them with fear. Keep in mind that a wheelchair can be a source of freedom and independence and that people who use wheelchairs might otherwise be confined to their home or their bed. It is preferable to use “person who uses a wheelchair” or “wheelchair user.”

Confined to a wheelchair (“wheelchair”), Conforms with AP style guide
Avoid using “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair-bound.” Instead, use “person who uses a wheelchair” or “wheelchair user.” Unless mentioning the wheelchair is essential to the story, leave it out. Avoid using phrases such as “wheelchair-rider” or “vertically challenged.”

Confined to a wheelchair (also see “wheelchair”), Conforms with AP style guide
People use wheelchairs for independent mobility. Some people prefer “person who uses a wheelchair” or “wheelchair user.” Avoid using “confined to a wheelchair,” “wheelchair-bound,” “wheelchair-rider” and “vertically challenged.”

Wheelchair-bound (also see “wheelchair”), Conforms with AP style guide
A person is not bound to a wheelchair; a wheelchair enables a person to be mobile. It is preferable to use “wheelchair user” or “uses a wheelchair.”

Visually Impaired

Blind Conforms with AP style guide
Use as an adjective, not as a noun. This word describes a person with complete loss of sight. Many people who are legally blind have some vision, which they sometimes use in combination with canes, dogs and other low-vision aids. For them the label “blind” is inaccurate. For others, use terms such as “visually impaired,” person with “limited vision” or “partially sighted.” Currently there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

The word “blind” is used in colloquial English to imply ignorance or stupidity; i.e., “turned a blind-eye,” “blind to the fact,” or “What? Are you blind?” “Blind” is a short, punchy word, which may make it good for headlines and teases, but it is inaccurate for non-disability issues and is misleading when applied to people with limited vision. Using “blind” as a synonym for “ignorant” is inaccurate and perpetuates stereotypes. It is preferable to choose more accurate words.

Low vision Conforms with AP style guide
This term describes a person with some vision which they use in combination with canes, dogs and other low-vision aids. Using the word “blind” for someone with limited vision or someone who is partially sighted is inaccurate. Currently, there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Low vision (also see “blind”)
This term describes a person with some vision which they use in combination with canes, dogs and other low-vision aids. Using the word “blind” for someone with limited vision or someone who is partially sighted is inaccurate. Currently, there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Low vision Conforms with AP style guide
This term describes a person with some vision which they use in combination with canes, dogs and other low-vision aids. Using the word “blind” for someone with limited vision or someone who is partially sighted is inaccurate. Currently, there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Service Animal (“assistance animal,” “guide dog,” “seeing eye dog”)
Trained animals, mostly dogs, providing services to people with disabilities.

Federal definition: Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling awheelchair, or fetching dropped items. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA, regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. For more information, go to http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm.

Assistance animal (also see “guide dog,” “seeing eye dog,” “service animal”)
Currently, there is no uniform terminology. Trained animals, mostly dogs, provide services to people with disabilities. These services include, but are not limited to, fetching objects for those who use wheelchairs, providing visual clues for those who are blind or alerting deaf individuals to household audio clues.

Guide dogs (also see “assistance animal,” “seeing eye dog,” “service animal”)
Currently, there is no uniform terminology. Trained animals, mostly dogs, provide services to people with disabilities. These services include, but are not limited to, fetching objects for those who use wheelchairs, providing visual clues for those who are blind or alerting deaf individuals to household audio clues.

Seeing eye dog (also see “assisstance animal,” “guide dog,” “service animal”), Conforms with AP style guide
This is a trademark for a guide dog trained by Seeing Eye Inc. of Morristown, N.J. For more information, go to http://www.seeingeye.org.

Hearing-Impaired

ASL
American Sign Language.

Deaf Conforms with AP style guide
Capitalize when a person identifies himself or herself as a member of the Deaf Culture community or when they capitalize Deaf when describing themselves. This word should be used as an adjective not as a noun; it describes a person with profound or complete hearing loss. Many people who are hard of hearing or who are hearing impaired have a mild to moderate hearing loss that may or may not be corrected with amplification. “Hearing impaired,” “hard of hearing,” “hearing loss,” partial hearing loss” and “partially deaf” are some of the terms that are generally acceptable in describing individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss. Other acceptable phrases include “woman who is deaf,” “boy who is hard of hearing,” “individuals with hearing losses” and “people who are deaf or hard of hearing.” It is best to avoid “deaf and dumb” and “deaf mute.” Currently there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Deaf dumb, deaf mute Conforms with AP style guide
Avoid. These terms refer to a person who does not hear and does not use speech to communicate. “Dumb” originally referred to a person who could not speak and implied the person was incapable of expressing himself or herself. People who are deaf or do not use speech are capable of expressing themselves in writing or with a different language, such as American Sign Language. Keep in mind that a person who does not use speech may be able to hear.

Dumb Conforms with AP style guide
This term originally referred to a person who could not speak and implied the person was incapable of expressing himself or herself. People who do not use speech are capable of expressing themselves. For example, they may use written language or a different language, such as American Sign Language. Keep in mind that a person who does not use speech may be able to hear. “Dumb” is also a derogatory term used to refer to someone with perceived low intellectual ability.

Hard of hearing, hearing impaired
Many people who are hard of hearing or hearing impaired have a mild to moderate hearing loss that may or may not be corrected with amplification. “Hearing impaired,” “hard of hearing,” “hearing loss,” partial hearing loss” and “partially deaf” are some of the terms that are generally acceptable in describing individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss. Currently, there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Mute Does not follow AP style
This is generally considered a derogatory term referring to a person who physically cannot speak. It also implies that people who do not use speech are unable to express themselves, which is not true.

Hard of hearing, hearing impaired
Many people who are hard of hearing or hearing impaired have a mild to moderate hearing loss that may or may not be corrected with amplification. “Hearing impaired,” “hard of hearing,” “hearing loss,” partial hearing loss” and “partially deaf” are some of the terms that are generally acceptable in describing individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss. Currently, there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Deaf Conforms with AP style guide
Capitalize when a person identifies himself or herself as a member of the Deaf Culture community or when they capitalize Deaf when describing themselves. This word should be used as an adjective not as a noun; it describes a person with profound or complete hearing loss. Many people who are hard of hearing or who are hearing impaired have a mild to moderate hearing loss that may or may not be corrected with amplification. “Hearing impaired,” “hard of hearing,” “hearing loss,” partial hearing loss” and “partially deaf” are some of the terms that are generally acceptable in describing individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss. Other acceptable phrases include “woman who is deaf,” “boy who is hard of hearing,” “individuals with hearing losses” and “people who are deaf or hard of hearing.” It is best to avoid “deaf and dumb” and “deaf mute.” Currently, there is no uniform terminology. It is best to ask the person which term is suitable.

Deaf dumb, deaf mute Conforms with AP style guide
Avoid. These terms refer to a person who does not hear and does not use speech to communicate. “Dumb” originally referred to a person who could not speak and implied the person was incapable of expressing himself or herself. People who are deaf or do not use speech are capable of expressing themselves in writing or with a different language, such as American Sign Language. Keep in mind that a person who does not use speech may be able to hear.

Dumb Conforms with AP style guide
This term originally referred to a person who could not speak and implied the person was incapable of expressing himself or herself. People who do not use speech are capable of expressing themselves. For example, they may use written language or a different language, such as American Sign Language. Keep in mind that a person who does not use speech may be able to hear. “Dumb” is also a derogatory term used to refer to someone with perceived low intellectual ability.

Mute Does not follow AP style
This is generally considered a derogatory term referring to a person who physically cannot speak. It also implies that people who do not use speech are unable to express themselves, which is not true.

Service Animal (“assistance animal,” “guide dog,” “seeing eye dog”)
Trained animals, mostly dogs, providing services to people with disabilities.

Federal definition: Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling awheelchair, or fetching dropped items. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA, regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. For more information, go to http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm.

Assistance animal (also see “guide dog,” “seeing eye dog,” “service animal”)
Currently, there is no uniform terminology. Trained animals, mostly dogs, provide services to people with disabilities. These services include, but are not limited to, fetching objects for those who use wheelchairs, providing visual clues for those who are blind or alerting deaf individuals to household audio clues.

Mental and Cognitive Disability / Seizure Disorders

Developmental disabilities
This phrase was generated from the Developmental Disabilities Act. It is an umbrella term that is often generalized to mean more than the federal and/or state legal definitions. The legal definition can vary from state to state.

The term generally is used to refer to individuals whose disabilities, acquired at birth or during childhood, affect development. The federal definition is: “Developmental disabilities are chronic mental and/or physical disabilities which manifest before age 22 and result in functional limitations in at least three of the following areas of life activity: self-care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. Individuals with developmental disabilities require lifelong or extended individual supports. Conditions include, but are not limited to autism, mental retardation, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.”

Down syndrome Conforms with AP style guide
Not “Down’s Syndrome” for the genetic, chromosomal disorder first reported in 1866 by Dr. J. Langdon Down. The preferred term is “a person with Down syndrome,” as opposed to “Down syndrome child.” Avoid using the word “mongoloid.” A syndrome is not a disease or illness; it is not contagious.

Psychiatric disability
Use the specific psychiatric condition when possible. When describing an individual, do not refer to his or her disability unless it is clearly pertinent to the story.

Loon, loony, loony bin
Taken from the term “lunatic,” any derivative that refers to an individual seeking therapy, assisted living or mental health services is considered a derogatory term.

Nuts
This word is sometimes used to refer to someone with a psychiatric disability and is widely considered a derogatory term.

Mental illness

Conforms with AP style guide

As published in the AP style guide:

Do not describe an individual as mentally ill unless it is clearly pertinent to a story and the diagnosis is properly sourced.

When used, identify the source for the diagnosis. Seek firsthand knowledge; ask how the source knows. Don’t rely on hearsay or speculate on a diagnosis. Specify the time frame for the diagnosis and ask about treatment. A person’s condition can change over time, so a diagnosis of mental illness might not apply anymore. Avoid anonymous sources. On-the-record sources can be family members, mental health professionals, medical authorities, law enforcement officials and court records. Be sure they have accurate information to make the diagnosis. Provide examples of symptoms.

Mental illness is a general condition. Specific disorders are types of mental illness and should be used whenever possible: He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to court documents. She was diagnosed with anorexia, according to her parents. He was treated for depression.

Some common mental disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (mental illnesses or disorders are lowercase, except when known by the name of a person, such as Asperger’s syndrome):

 

Here is a link from the National Institute of Mental Health that can be used as a reference:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

Do not use derogatory terms, such as insane, crazy/crazed, nuts or deranged, unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.

Do not assume that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime, and verify statements to that effect. A past history of mental illness is not necessarily a reliable indicator. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, and experts say most people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness.

Avoid unsubstantiated statements by witnesses or first responders attributing violence to mental illness. A first responder often is quoted as saying, without direct knowledge, that a crime was committed by a person with a “history of mental illness.” Such comments should always be attributed to someone who has knowledge of the person’s history and can authoritatively speak to its relevance to the incident.

Avoid descriptions that connote pity, such as afflicted with, suffers from or victim of. Rather, he has obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Double-check specific symptoms and diagnoses. Avoid interpreting behavior common to many people as symptoms of mental illness. Sadness, anger, exuberance and the occasional desire to be alone are normal emotions experienced by people who have mental illness as well as those who don’t.

Wherever possible, rely on people with mental illness to talk about their own diagnoses.

Avoid using mental health terms to describe non-health issues. Don’t say that an awards show, for example, was schizophrenic.

Use the term mental or psychiatric hospital, not asylum.

Seizure

Avoid using “fit” to describe a seizure. It is more accurate to use the term “seizure.” “Fit” or “throwing a fit” in colloquial English often implies that a person is acting spoiled or out of control because he or she is not getting what they want.

 

Service Animal (“assistance animal,” “guide dog,” “seeing eye dog”)
Trained animals, mostly dogs, providing services to people with disabilities.

Federal definition: Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling awheelchair, or fetching dropped items. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA, regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. For more information, go to http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm.

Assistance animal (also see “guide dog,” “seeing eye dog,” “service animal”)
Currently, there is no uniform terminology. Trained animals, mostly dogs, provide services to people with disabilities. These services include, but are not limited to, fetching objects for those who use wheelchairs, providing visual clues for those who are blind or alerting deaf individuals to household audio clues.

Stutter
Use “people who stutter,” not “stutterers.” Use as an adjective, not a noun.