We all find ourselves in situations in which we don't know what to say or do. We may meet someone who moves or acts differently, and wonder how we should react. When interacting with people with disabilities, it's important to remember that they are people first. They want to be appreciated, respected, and productive.

Recent changes in civil rights laws have helped people with disabilities pursue employment, recreation, and education opportunities in the mainstream of community life. As a result, attitudes towards people with disabilities have also begun to change. This is a start toward creating a truly integrated society; one in which people of all abilities live and work together.

The use of negative words can create incorrect perceptions of people with disabilities. Such negative attitudes are often the most difficult barriers for people with disabilities to overcome. Even the word "handicap" is considered unacceptable by most people with disabilities because of the word's origin. "Handicap" is derived from "cap in hand," a phrase associated with beggars.

When describing a person with a disability, refer to the person first. Rather than saying or writing "blind man" or "afflicted with blindness" refer to "a person with visual impairment" or "a person who is blind." This also applies when you are describing a group of people with disabilities. Do not label a group of individuals as "the disabled"; which puts the focus on their disabilities. "People with disabilities" or "individuals who use wheelchairs" places people first.