“Crippled” is a harsh word to refer to someone who is disabled. You should avoid using it in every case. That’s why we thought it would be wise to show you the better (and appropriate) alternatives to using “crippled” in this article.
What Can I Say Instead Of “Crippled”?
There are plenty of words we can use to replace “crippled.” The problem is that we don’t want to be seen as an ableist. For this reason, you should look into the following:
The preferred version is “disabled.” It’s a blanket term that refers to anyone who has a physical (or mental) disability. Since we’re talking about replacements for “crippled,” we’ll focus on the physical disabilities, which is why “disabled” still works as the best replacement.
“Disabled” is the best choice because it refers to anyone who is not able to use their arms or legs correctly. There are plenty of other disabilities as well, and the term “disabled” refers to them all. It is not offensive, and it is a great way to show them that you mean no harm.
The definition of “disabled,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “not having one or more of the physical or mental abilities that most people have.”
We can use “disabled” as a blanket term to refer to all kinds of disabilities. For the most part, it works whenever we want to replace the offensive “crippled” word since it refers to someone exactly as they are rather than trying to make light of their disability.
If we do not know what has caused a person to be disabled, there is nothing stopping us from asking. Sometimes, disabled people will be happy to share their trauma with you, which might help you understand their plight a little more.
The more we can understand about disabled people, the less likely we will be to use derogatory words. It’s best to avoid doing so, and you should always ask the person what kind of descriptive words they would expect to hear.
These examples will explain all you need to know about using “disabled:”
- He’s disabled, but that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying any of the normal things that boys his age enjoy.
- You are disabled, and I’m so sorry for whatever you’ve had to go through.
- I’m disabled. I don’t let it stop me, though, as I know there’s more to life than that!
“Injured” is another great word we can use to talk about people with disabilities. This time, we can use it to show that we believe some form of physical harm has come to them to lead to their injury.
The definition of “injured,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “hurt or physically harmed.”
Typically, injuries are not lifelong. While disabilities may last forever, an injury can pass. Therefore, there is a limit to how long someone might be “injured.”
Typically, you will be able to find out if a person is injured or disabled by asking them. They might talk about a sporting or work-related accident that might have caused them to walk with a cane or a limp.
Any number of things can lead to an injury. The human body is much more fragile than you might believe. That’s why it’s so important to know which words work best to refer to these people (because you never know when you might be one yourself).
Check out these examples to help you understand more about it:
- I’ve been injured for about six months. I think I’m finally starting to recover, though.
- You are not nearly as injured as you seem to think you are! Your doctors will tell you that.
- I think she’s been injured for about three months. I wish there was something more I could do.
“Immobilized” is another useful and appropriate term we can use. Again, this refers mostly to people who have disabilities for life, though it’s possible for certain injuries to immobilize someone as well.
The definition of “immobilized,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to stop something or someone from moving.”
An injury would have to be quite serious for someone to end up immobilized. You can generally tell when someone is immobilized based on whether they can move their legs or not.
Typically, wheelchair users are known as immobilized. We can also refer to them as “disabled” if we want to. It’s best to find out from them which words are most appropriate.
Here are a few examples of how they work:
- He is immobilized because of that tragic accident. It’s an awful shame.
- I’ve been immobilized for most of my life. I don’t need your sympathy now.
- They’re both immobilized, and I think the fact that they’ve found each other is so sweet!
“Incapacitated” works when talking about a disability. Usually, something happens that leads someone to become incapacitated, so we are more likely talking about injuries. Still, if someone is unable to work or operate normally, this word is appropriate.
The definition of “incapacitated,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to make someone unable to work or do things normally, or unable to do what they intended to do.”
Here are a few examples to show you how it looks:
- He’s incapacitated. I think we should carry him out of here before he gets into any more trouble.
- She’s been incapacitated because of that stupid accident! I can’t get over it.
- You’re incapacitated through no fault of your own. You should not blame yourself at all!
“Debilitated” works as another appropriate alternative. This time, it mostly refers to people who get gradually worse over time. You will usually notice this if you’re close to a person, and you can see that their disability or injury is worsening.
The definition of “debilitated,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to make someone or something physically weak.”
Sometimes, our bodies fail us. We might end up getting a lot worse before we get better. That’s where “debilitated” comes into play. It works whenever we want to show that someone has got gradually worse.
These examples will show you what it looks like:
- He has debilitated, and he needs a hospital bed now.
- I am debilitating. I can feel my legs are getting much weaker.
- You have been debilitating for a long time, and I really think you should visit a doctor!
“Damaged” isn’t one of the best choices on here. However, it’s still more appropriate than “crippled.” We mostly want to use it when someone has an injury, as it can be offensive if we try to say that a disabled person is “damaged” if they have no control over it.
The definition of “damaged,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “harmed.”
Typically, “damage” is something that can happen to someone, whether it’s their fault or not. They may be left with an injury that can cause them to hobble, limp, or require a wheelchair from that damage.
This is why “damaged” only tends to work with injuries. You should not use this with lifelong disabled people.
Here are a few examples:
- I’ve been damaged ever since that rugby match.
- You’ve damaged him more than you realize with that little stunt.
- He’s damaged! Don’t worry, though; he’s quite resilient.
“Hurt” is the most basic term on this list. We can use it to refer to someone who has been hurt or injured in some way. Again, it’s best to use with someone who has picked up an injury and is likely to recover. “Disabled” people don’t typically get called “hurt.”
The definition of “hurt,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to feel pain in a part of your body, or to injure someone or cause them pain.”
This is a very light word to use compared to the others. Sometimes it doesn’t even compare to the actual pain someone has gone through.
Still, these examples will help you understand it more:
- I’m pretty hurt after the accident. I’m sure I’ll recover soon, though.
- They’re both hurt after colliding with each other. I’m glad someone was on scene to help them
- You look hurt! Is there anything we can do to help?
Is “Crippled” Politically Correct?
We’ve seen all the appropriate synonyms now, but it’s time to circle back to “crippled.” We want to quickly show you why it is not an appropriate word choice.
“Crippled” is not politically correct. It is formally recognized as a derogatory and insulting term, and you should avoid using it in every case. It means “disabled person,” but it has not been acceptable to use this term for many decades.
We can also show you a dictionary definition to prove the point we just raised.
The definition of “crippled,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “an extremely offensive word for a person whose legs or arms do not work in the usual way.”
As you can see, it is “extremely offensive.” There are no situations where you should use it. Just stick to one of the alternatives we gave you.
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Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.