Tag Archives: disability labels

What do you say…

With all of the talk of late, thanks in large part to Paula Deen’s self-destructive faux pas, about political correctness and respecting all minority groups by using more palatable references, it seem timely to clear up some misconceptions about developmental and intellectual disabilities.

  1. “Handicapped” and “disabled” are adjectives.  We refer to people with nouns.  So, the appropriate thing to say is “people with a disability”, or “he has a disability” not “she is disabled” or “the disabled lady”.
  2. People with I/DD and those who love them are not interested in hearing how sorry others feel for us and/or how courageous we are.  Children with I/DD are no different than you and your children.  They are just as unique, yet equally the same.
  3. While the “poster child” approach is effective for raising money, it sets up those with I/DD as objects of pity and promotes inaccurate and demeaning stereotypes.  When looking for services and programs for someone you care about who has I/DD, or when asked to donate to an organization that uses this tactic, consider what you are promoting and how the particular agency views those it serves.  Would you put your elderly parents in a long-term care facility or give money to one that presents itself as the “place to put your soon to be dead loved ones”?
  4. Since human beings began to stand upright and walk on just two feet there have been people with I/DD, in every color, race, creed, socio-economic demographic, size and shape.  Those with a disability are composed of literally every type of human.  It is not selective.
  5. Those with an intellectual disability are not stupid. They simply develop intellectually at a slower rate.  A low IQ level does not mean an individual is void of special talents, skills and a personality. 
  6. Someone’s physical appearance is not an indicator of their disability.  Those who drool generally do so because of a lack of fine motor [muscle] control, not because of a low IQ.  In fact, IQ has nothing to do with both gross and fine motor skills.
  7. In case Ms. Deen reads this, never refer to someone as crippled, retarded, nuts, crazy, stupid or dumb.  Never. 
  8. People with disabilities consider themselves a minority group, who has the same rights as the rest of us.  Advancements made on their behalf have not been because of society’s compassion and commitment to fairness and acceptance.  Changes have come about because those with I/DD and the families who love them have begun to stand up and advocate for equality and social inclusion.
  9. Most people shy away from interacting with individuals with an intellectual and/or developmental disability [I/DD] because they do not feel comfortable conversing and fear they will say something inappropriate.  So, you are not alone.
  10. Finally, people with I/DD are, for the most part, kind and caring individuals who want the same things we do.  Do not freeze up. Talk. Engage.  Understand and respect.  Converse.  See the individual—not the disability.



This piece is based on an article initially written by Dennis Cannon, presented to the Southern California Rapid Transit District in the late 1990s, and updated by Margaret Jakobson on behalf of Disability Rights California.