Tools for Ministry


People First Language

When writing or speaking about people with disabilities, words should be chosen carefully in order to promote dignity and respect. Written or spoken words are powerful tools that can affirm and empower or belittle and demean. Language used to describe people with disabilities often focuses on lack of ability rather than on competency. Avoid reinforcing common myths about people with disabilities.

The following suggestions are adapted from guidelines developed by The Research and Training Center on Independent Living.

  • Make reference to the person first, then the disability. Say “a person with a disability” rather than “a disabled person.”
  • If the disability isn’t germane to the story or conversation, don’t mention it.
  • A person is not a condition; therefore, avoid describing a person in such a manner. Don’t present someone as an “epileptic.” Rather say “a person with epilepsy”.
  • Do not portray successful people with disabilities as superhuman, as this raises expectations that all people with disabilities should reach this level.
  • Do not sensationalize a disability by use of such terms as “afflicted with,” “victim of,” “suffers from.”
  • Do not use generic labels such as “the disabled.”
  • Emphasize abilities, not limitations. Use “walks with crutches” rather than “crippled”.
  • Do not use condescending euphemisms. Terms like “handy-capable” and “physically inconvenienced” are considered condescending.
  • Do not imply disease. People with disabilities should never be referred to as patients.
  • Speak of people with disabilities as active participants in society. They are!

From the Inclusive Congregation Tool Kit available from Pathways Foundation.

Inclusive Congregation Toolkit

The Pathways Organization created these easy tips on making your Church more inclusive in the areas of affirmation, communication, and accessibility.

Click here to access the wealth of resources they’ve created.


The National Catholic Partnership on Disability has created a series of Webinars that they offer and archive online at their Web site,