Ableist language takes words that have historically, or are currently, used to describe people with disabilities, and uses them in a discriminatory or dismissive manner. Similar to racist language and sexist language, ableist language sneaks into our slang, metaphors, and phrases, and can be difficult to notice. Just like racist and sexist language, ableist language perpetuates negative stereotypes and reinforces the unconscious biases held by a culture: that disabled people are damaged, lesser, or incapable. Even if you do not hold that belief yourself, ableist language is harmful to those around you, and a common microaggression.
Challenge yourself to consider your language and avoid terms that stem from mental health diagnoses or medical diagnoses, especially when you are speaking casually and not discussing an actual condition.
|When you would have said this:||Try an alternative:|
|Bipolar||Back and forth, all over the place|
|OCD||Particular, neat, meticulous|
|ADD, ADHD||Unfocused, struggling, on the strugglebus|
|Retarded||Dense, ignorant, ridiculous|
|Psycho, nutcase, insane||Wild, ludicrous, bizarre, intense, bonkers|
|Lame||Boring, bland, pathetic|
|Crippled, handicapped (to mean a limit on your ability)||Limited, distracted, unable|
|Blind (to mean you've missed an obvious thing)||Not paying attention, unfocused, uncaffeinated|
|Deaf (to mean you've not been paying attention)||Head in the clouds, unfocused, distracted|
These are not bad words you should avoid completely in your language, just words you might reconsider when you mean something other than a specific condition, diagnosis, or disability. Being intentional with your language to avoid harming those around you is never a bad thing, and over time, using these words less as slang helps to make our culture kinder and more welcoming for disabled people as a whole.