Avoiding Ableist Language

DMG strives to provide a space free from linguistic, physical, environmental and social barriers.

We ask that everyone part of this community, but especially workshop leaders and speakers at our events, be:

  • Intentional in their speech
  • Aware of the words they use and the effect they may have on others
  • Humble (not defensive) when corrected or questioned

It can be difficult at first to change language habits, but we are a community that values a genunine intent to include and affirm all experiences and bodies. If you realize you've said something you wish you hadn't, correct yourself and move on. You'll be afforded patience and also remind others about our commitment to eliminating ableism in our space.

The following words and phrases are often used pejoratively to oppress, other, or marginalize disabled people. Many of these words, common in casual speech, are derived from descriptions of disability. Do your best to be aware of your use of these terms, and change the language you use to avoid unintentionally hurting someone.

Common Ableist Terms to Avoid

  • Blind to ____
  • Crazy
  • Daft
  • Deaf to ____
  • Derp
  • Dumb
  • Handicap(ped)
  • Idiot(ic)
  • Imbecile
  • Insane/insanity
  • Lame
  • Loony/loony bin
  • Lunatic
  • Madhouse/mad/madman
  • Maniac
  • Mental
  • Moron
  • Nuts
  • Psycho
  • Psychopath
  • Psycho(tic)
  • anything -tard
  • Stupid
  • Suffers from ____
  • Wacko

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, rather, a reference to get you thinking about casual ableism and how we might be unintentionally harming those around us.

If you’d like to learn more, we recommend Lydia Brown’s excellent Violence in Language: Circling Back to Linguistic Ableism. The words in this glossary are excerpted from their post Ableism/Language.

Last revised: March 7, 2019