I was meeting with a client the other day and as we were discussing the improvements that he needed to make to his property, he kept referring to them as handicapped improvements. After a couple mentions of the word, I explained to him the word handicapped was demeaning to those with disabilities and he should use the word disabled instead of handicapped.
The reason we use the word disabled instead of handicapped is because many individuals in the disabled community do not consider their disability a handicapped. Many in the disabled community can have completely normal lives despite their disability so to describe them as handicapped would be totally inaccurate.
Using the word disabled instead of handicapped is hard for many of those in the design profession including architects, building officials and contractors because when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was first sign into law, many would refer to the improvements as handicapped improvements and as time went on, the word stuck.
Now in 2014, we and I specifically need to make sure we all use the correct nomenclature and refer to individuals as disabled and the improvements that are made for the disabled are referred to as accessibility improvements.