According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/), “a disability exists when an individual has any physical or psychological illness that ‘substantially limits’ a major life activity, such as walking, learning, breathing, working, or participating in community activities.”21
Avoid labeling (and thus equating) people with their disabilities or diseases (eg, the blind, schizophrenics, epileptics). Instead, put the person first. Avoid describing persons as victims or with other emotional terms that suggest helplessness (afflicted with, suffering from, stricken with, maimed). Avoid euphemistic descriptors such as physically challenged or special.
the disabled, the handicapped
persons with a disability
disabled child, mentally ill person, retarded person
child with a disability, person with mental illness, person with intellectual disability, person with intellectual disability (mental retardation)
persons with diabetes, study participants in the diabetes group, diabetic patients
children with asthma, asthma group, asthmatic child
person affected by epilepsy, person with epilepsy, epileptic patient
AIDS victim, stroke victim
person with AIDS, person who has had a stroke
crippled, lame, deformed
deaf persons, deaf adults, deaf culture or community
confined (bound) to a wheelchair
uses a wheelchair
Avoid metaphors that may be inappropriate and insensitive (blind to the truth, deaf to the request). For similar reasons, some publications avoid the term double-blind when referring to a study’s methodology.
Note: Some manuscripts use certain phrases many times, and changing, for example, “AIDS patients” to “persons with AIDS” at every occurrence may result in awkward and stilted text. In such cases, the adjectival form may be used.