• Avoid using terms that equate
people with their disability, such as
quadriplegics, the deaf, or the disabled.
Instead, use people who use a wheelchair,
deaf people or people who are deaf, and
people with disabilities.
• Avoid terms that reflect a bias or
projected feelings of an individual’s
situation. Examples of phrases to be
avoided include: victim of, suffering
from, and afflicted with.
• Trendy euphemisms are also
to be avoided. Expressions such as
physically challenged, special, differently
abled, and handi-capable generally are
regarded by the disability community
as patronizing and inaccurate.
Global demographics have come about
from medical and other advances that
allow people to live longer than previous
generations [ 6]. With increasing
longevity come changes in how aging
is viewed—particularly by those who
are aging. Gone are the days when
aging immediately called up images of
infirmity, frailty, and incompetency.
Today’s aging adults are more active
and healthy than previous generations.
While age-related impairments are
well documented, there is awareness
that these impairments vary greatly
from person to person and that aging
individuals often do not regard these
impairments as a disability. Given this
background, when writing about aging
individuals, it is important to not give
offense and to accurately reflect the
diversity of abilities in the population.
In accessibility research, terms
that promote ageist thinking should
be avoided. That said, there is no
single term generally accepted even
by members of this population [ 7, 8].
The term elderly generally is not
considered acceptable when discussing
typically aging individuals. It is often
thought of as pejorative and generally
has connotations of ill health. While
seniors or senior citizens were terms
popular in recent history, these phrases
are falling out of favor. Descriptions
80 years young are considered
patronizing. The most acceptable
appears to be older adult, although even
that characterization is not without
criticism by some.
Use of these terms to describe a
group of older participants comes with
some provisos, however. The age and
age range of the people in the research
study must be completely specified.
There is no generally accepted age for
being an “older adult” and research
studies vary considerably in the age
cut-offs used. Ageing is a lifelong
process, and precise boundaries do not
divide those who are young and those
who are old. Depending on the age
range of participants, good practice
suggests not just grouping together all
older participants as “older adults,”
but rather, for example, differentiating
among young-old and old-old research
participants [ 9].
Terms to avoid: the elderly, the aged.
LANGUAGE FOR DISCUSSING
The phrase visually impaired is
commonly used. While this is a phrase
that is acceptable to most stakeholders,
For example, in some studies it is
critical to know if participants are
screen-reader users or if they prefer
magnification or visual filters. Not all
blind people use screen readers. Some
people with low vision use screen
readers; others use magnification
software or other software to help
better navigate a visual interface.
In other studies, it may be critical
to distinguish participants by degree
of vision loss. The terms blind, legally
blind, and low vision are commonly
used, but for scientific writing require
definition with reference to the
research study and participants’ use of
Terms to avoid: the blind,
sight-deficient, people with sight problems,