the disabled/a disabled person


Senior Member
Mandarin / the Shanghai Dialect

“Calling a person disabled - not THE disabled but a disabled person is almost always considered correct. This is the primary term used in the UK and amongst academics and activists in the United States.”

From Disability or Disabled? Which Term is Right?

I would like to know why calling a person “THE disabled” is insulting? Is it because it refers to a person as a group?
  • S1m0n

    Senior Member
    It is because they are an individual, not their disability. If you use the definite article ("The disabled") you're saying that is the most important thing about them, and that is offensive. This is not a grammar rule; this is politeness.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    What that person said doesn’t make sense in reference to one individual. “The disabled” can only apply to a group of people.

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    The disabled, the blind, the poor, the homeless ... are terms used for groups of people, generic terms I suppose, meaning 'blind people' or 'those who are disabled'.
    I don't know why we can't say 'the blind' or 'an old' referring to an individual. This is possible in some languages. In English we don't change adjective endings to accord with nouns in number or gender.
    If I talked about seeing 'an old in the street' there's no way of telling if it's an old man or an old woman. Perhaps that's why, if there is any reasoning behind it.
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