What's in a Name

Terms to Use When Referring to People with Disabilities

“Confined to a Wheelchair”
“Stroke Victim”
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These words paint a picture of incapacity and inability when they are used to describe people with disabilities. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to change the way people with disabilities are viewed. Efforts continue in Michigan to promote the independence, abilities, competency, and talents of people with disabilities.

The Michigan Commission on Disability Concerns, with the cooperation of the Michigan Jobs Commission-Rehabilitation Services, the Michigan Commission for the Blind, and the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council, has compiled a list of appropriate terms and acceptable alternatives to use when writing or talking about people with physical or mental disabilities.

We can help put an end to discrimination by paying more attention to how we communicate, and help reduce the seventy percent of unemployment rate among people with severe disabilities. Together, we can change what it means to be a person with a disability in America today by promoting independence through equality.

The Michigan Commission on Disability Concerns serves as an advocate and information resource for the state's 1.7 million people with disabilities. The Commission’s mission is to achieve full participation, choice, and self-determination for each individual with a disability in a way that promotes awareness of disability issues; and values equity, dignity, and diversity consistent with the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For more information, write to or call the Commission at:

Michigan Commission on Disability Concerns

P.O. Box 30659
Lansing, MI 48909
(517) 334-8000 (Voice or TTY)
Fax: (517) 334-6637
E-Mail: Mcdc@State.mi.us

“What Is in a Name” is reprinted with permission of the DHS Director. If you wish to purchase this article/brochure, please contact the State of Michigan Department of Human Services.

The Department of Human Services will not discriminate against any individual or group because of race, sex, religion, age, national origin, color, marital status, political beliefs or disability. If you need help with reading, writing, hearting, etc., under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are invited to make your needs known to a DHS office in your county.