Developmental disability is
any severe mental and/or physical
disorder that began before age 22 and
continues indefinitely. Individuals
with intellectual disabilities, autism,
cerebral palsy, epilepsy and other
similar long-term disabilities may be
considered to have developmental
For people who do not have a
cognitive disability, use terms such as
people without disabilities or, in the case
of developmental disabilities, typically
developing or neurotypically developing.
Terms to avoid: retarded, demented,
deficient, insane, slow or slow learner,
abnormal or normal, and mongoloid (use
person or child with Down Syndrome
We began by noting that terminology
changes over time, acknowledging
that the terms we suggest here may
become unacceptable for unforeseen
reasons even within a few years. The
language in use at a given time reflects
the attitudes and philosophies of the
time. It is important to understand
the meanings and backgrounds of the
terminology you use to make sure that
your writing accurately reflects current
attitudes and philosophies. The terms
used in scientific writing also should
appropriately describe the research
In the writing of this paper we
acknowledge the support of IBM,
Google, and Research Councils UK
(EP/G066019/1 and EP/K037293/1).
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Vicki Hanson has been an accessibility
researcher throughout her career at IBM’s
Watson Research Center and the universities
of Dundee (U.K.) and RI T (U.S.). An ACM Fellow,
she is past editor-in-chief of ACM Transactions
on Accessible Computing and currently serves
as the SIGCHI vice president-at-large and as
the ACM vice president.
Anna Cavender is a software engineer
at Google specializing in accessibility. Her
Ph.D. focused on empowering Deaf and hard
of hearing people (MobileASL, ClassInFocus,
and ASL STEM Forum). She’s co-founder of
the Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf and
Hard of Hearing in Computing and serves on
the editorial board for ACM Transactions on
Shari Trewin is an IBM researcher
specializing in accessibility. An ACM
Distinguished Scientist, she has published
widely on tools and techniques that
accommodate human abilities and disabilities
across our life span. She is chair of ACM
SIGACCESS, and associate editor of the journal
ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing.
DOI: 10.1145/2828432 © 2015 ACM 1072-5520/15/11 $15.00