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Style Guide - National Center on Disability and Journalism

Authors: National Center on Disability and Journalism


This Style Guide, produced by the National Center on Disability and Journalism (NCDJ), is a detailed guide for reporters, journalists, and other communication professionals about the correct terms to use when speaking or writing about people and disability issues in their work. The guide provides several terms that are acceptable when a person's disability is pertinent to the story, as well as commonly used terms and phrases that should be avoided (the Guide explains the historical context for each of these controversial terms and offers suggestions for respectful alternatives). In all, the guide covers over 75 terms, such as "able-bodied," "spinal bifida," "special needs," and a wide variety of others. As an example, the following is the Style Guide's entry on "able-bodied."


Background: This term is used to describe someone who does not identify as having a disability. Some members of the disability community oppose its use because it implies that all people with disabilities lack “able bodies” or the ability to use their bodies well. They prefer “non-disabled” or “enabled” as more accurate terms.

NCDJ Recommendation: The term non-disabled or the phrase “does not have a disability” is a more neutral choice. Able-bodied is an appropriate term to use in some cases, such as government reports on the proportion of abled-bodied members in the work force. In some cases, the word “typical” can be used to describe a non-disabled condition.

AP style: Not addressed."

Full text of the Style Guide can be downloaded as a printable PDF or accessed through the web. The NCDJ also offers a shorter version of this article called "Terms to Avoid When Writing About Disability." Click on the "Web Links" tab for hot links to each.

Sample entry on "Able-bodied" copied from website on 1/20/2016 - ncdj.org/style-guide/

Contact Info:
Name:Kristin Gilger
Organization:National Center on Disability and Journalism
Address:555 N Central Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Web Links

View the entire Style Guide online

Download the Style Guide as a PDF file for printing

See their shorter listing of "Terms to Avoid When Writing About Disability"

Visit the home page of the authoring organization, the National Center on Disability and Journalism

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