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Oklahoma City - An OSU Degree in OKC.

Inclusive/Empowering Language


Common Language  Inclusive/Empowering Language to Consider Why? 
Addict Person struggling with addiction (example: person with a substance use disorder or [what they're addicted to]) Like many terms that reduce someone down to their struggle with something, "addict" can be a dehumanizing term which denies people's dignity. Based on the permanent tone of the term, "addict" also implies that there is no space for change. 
Autistic Neurodiverse, neurodivergent Some community members feel "Autistic" has a negative and offensive meaning. Many view Autism Spectrum Disorder as simply another form of neurodiversity--everyone's brains are wonderfully unique! However, there are some who prefer the term "Autistic" because they feel it affirms an inherent part of their identity. Ask what someone prefers if you're unsure.
black (lowercase "b") Black (capital "B") Capitalizing "Black" when referring to people affirms their history and contributions, pride and power. Learn more about Race in Language. 
Disabled/Handicapped Person with a disability, person with diverse abilities, person with [name of disability]. "Disabled" may imply that someone's disability eclipses their sole identity and role/function as a person. People with disabilities are many things in addition to the challenge(s) they experience. Identifying someone as a "person with a disability" instead of "disabled" recognizes that their disability is simply a part of them and it does not define who they are.
Gendered Language (example: Businessman, Fireman, Policeman, Waitress) Gender-neutral terms such as Firefighter or Server. Better yet, ask someone how they identify and use the aligning term! Someone you know identifies as male and is a police officer? Cool. Use "Policeman" if that's what they prefer! smiley Using gendered language without verifying how the person you're referring to identifies can promote stereotypes and create discomfort if you've gotten someone's gender identity wrong. Don't be afraid to ask how someone identifies. Learn more about personal pronouns and why they're important.

Latine (pronounced LA-TEEN), Latiné (pronounced LA-TEEN-AY)

"Latine/Latiné" was created by the Hispanic/Latino community as a gender-neutral, inclusive term. "Hispanic" is still commonly used when referring to someone from a Spanish-speaking country.
Homeless Person experiencing homelessness, houseless, unhoused Many housing and social justice advocacy groups are moving away from using "homeless," as some feel this term demonizes and blames people for having brought this situation upon themselves or implies that they are inherently dangerous. Using inclusive/empowering language helps preserve dignity and humanity. 
Mentally challenged/Mentally retarded Person with an intellectual disability, person with diverse abilities "Mentally challenged" and "Mentally retarded" are generally viewed by community members as being outdated terms, and "mentally retarded" can be perceived as hurtful. Over the past few years, the American Psychiatric Association renamed "Mental Retardation" as "Intellectual Disability" in support of more empowering language.
Native American Native American, American Indian, or Indigenous American are all acceptable, however whenever possible refer to someone by their specific tribal name.  Some of the broader terms may be falling out of favor with some groups and shifting to being referred to by their specific tribal name. Which broader term is preferred varies from place to place and person to person. Asking how someone identifies is a best practice. 
Sexual Orientation Affection Orientation Some people may not have the desire to be in a romantic relationship. Using the term "affection" orientation instead of "sexual" orientation recognizes those who do not have an interest in sex or who may be fluid in their feelings or desire to connect with others in a romantic way.


Have a question or correction? Or an inclusive/empowering term you'd like to see added? Let us know at