Disability? Impairment? Disabled people? Language offers a variety of ways to express ourselves and shapes the world in which we live. Language creates reality.

The right choice of words is essential when dealing with the topic of disability, especially at the beginning. Words are the “clothing of our thoughts”. They sometimes express prejudice or underlying values, thereby conveying negative and positive messages.

What words should we use to speak or write about disability? There is a wide range of words to choose from and their meanings and implications do not always match at first glance. Everyone agrees that you shouldn't say or write "cripple". What about the term "handicap"? At first glance the word does not seem problematic. However, it comes from an old English game and is no longer used in English today to talk about disabled people.


Language is constantly evolving

Also, people with disabilities and organizations sometimes have different preferences regarding the choice of words when referring to the topic of disability. There are also regional differences. In Germany, for example, you have the word "severe disability", but in Austria this is not common. At myAbility, our choice of words was made in agreement with all of the employees, some of whom have a disability themselves.

A disability is not something you have to hide or embellish.

Don't be afraid of the word "disability"!

The goal is to show the self-confident attitude of people with disabilities in language. There is no reason to hide a disability or sugar-coat it to make it sound more positive. The word "disability" should not evoke a strange, unpleasant feeling or an urge to use a "nicer" term. The problems with the word "disability" show the social problem that we at myAbility are addressing.

Linguistic dos and don'ts

The word "disability" doesn't hurt. Is it really politically correct to write or say this word? We say yes, it is.

At myAbility, we have deliberately chosen to use the word “disability”. In our view, paraphrases such as “handicap” or “special needs” reproduce the stigma of the word “disability”. We don't speak or write about "the disabled", but about "people/job seekers/employees/... with disabilities" or "disabled people/job seekers/employees/...".

Why? "The disabled" means reducing a person to their disability and defining them by their disability. First and foremost, it is about the person, the position or the role, and only secondarily the disability. Having a disability is just one of many characteristics of a human being to which a person must not be reduced.

We do not say "being disabled". We speak of "having a disability". A person is not disabled and should not be defined as such, but instead, a person has a disability. To some, this may sound like complete eyewash - what's the point of these phrases? From our point of view, this is a question of self-definition. Here, language is a means of showing that a disability does not make up the whole of a person.


  • People with disabilities / disabled people
    A disability does not define the whole person.
  • To have a disability
    I am not my disability; I have a disability.
  • Impairment
    This word comes from Disability Studies and clearly refers to the physical aspects of a disability. At the moment this word is used very often and is not wrong per se. Since we also need to consider the social dimension of disability, we prefer the word “disability”.
  • Disability
    When working with companies, discussing this term is often a good way to start with the topic of disability. We also speak of “DisAbility Recruitment ” in our consulting services.

  • Restriction
    Not only do companies sometimes find it very hard to feel comfortable to use the word “disability”,but also people with disabilities sometimes have difficulties identifying with certain terms. We use “restriction” in contexts when it is difficult to use “disability”. Furthermore, we use it whenever a broader understanding is required.



  • The disabled -- being disabled
    This choice of words reduces the person to their disability, as if it was the only identity marker defining a person.
  • Handicap
    This term comes from an old English game and is no longer used today for describing disabled people.

  • Special needs / special skills
    In our opinion, this is the most inappropriate term, trying to avoid the word "disability" out of fear. We want to normalize the issue of disability, and not have the need to regard disability as something "special".


Some ideas were taken from the following sites:

In our opinion, the media plays an important role how the subject of disability will further develop. Find a small selection here:


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