Should we be using the word "Handicap" in this story?

Another request for clarity from an editor!

We recently posted this story: Taking A Right Turn Into A Valuable Lesson

We also received a complaint that this story should not use the word “handicap” as it is offensive to people with disabilities. We have removed this word from a story in the past that was directly referencing people with disabilities, but it was left in for this story as only the OPs difficulty determining left and right was being referenced, and therefore the term was used as it would be in the game of golf.

We’ve explained our reason, but that doesn’t mean we’re right and we’d be happy to take your views on the subject. What do you think? Never use the term ever again and phase it out of our vocabulary, or it is fine to use when not referencing people with disabilities?

Personally it’s fine otherwise you’ll never be able to do a golf round-up if you permanently omit the word handicap.

Since OP is describing themselves rather then someone else, I see no problem with it.

I might be biased, because in English the term disabled is used more, but in Dutch, gehandicapten parkeerplaats (disabled parking) is the official term, and handicap is used in regular talk.


I have no strong opinions about the use of the word, so I did have a look online using the search term “Is handicapped a slur”. Quite a few interesting opinion pieces popped up. This quote (from Accessibility Tools: Disabled or handicapped or ??? Which terms should be used?) sums the distinction between disabled and handicapped rather well:

A handicap is a barrier or circumstance that makes progress or success difficult, such as an impassable flight of stairs or a negative attitude toward a person who has a disability.

A practical example: Janet Zeller, who has quadriplegia (some level of paralysis in all four limbs), has been told that she doesn’t look “handicapped” when she is out paddling her sea kayak. Think about the situation. When Janet is paddling her sea kayak she is part of a sleek craft gliding through the water. There are no barriers to stop her or to “handicap” her. But she still has a disability.

In the context of sports like golf or shooting where handicaps are applied to allow people of all levels to compete with each other, I believe the word is perfectly acceptable. I guess it becomes more problematic when it is used to address someone with a disability.

If someone with a disability uses the word to reference themselves, then I would suggest it is probably acceptable, as that is how they wish to be labelled. To do otherwise would be rude, rather like calling someone Jack when they would prefer to be called John.

Here are some other opinion essays (but please remember that all links in this post are opinion pieces and may not necessarily reflect the views of the wider community):


I honestly did not read it as a sports/golf usage. If that were the case I would expect OP to be offered something extra to equalize the competition. But rather than evening out a playing field, it seems OP is given accommodations for their difficulty. So I struggle to see how this usage is sports related and not disability related.

I suspect it’s a translation error from Dutch language/culture as Murdocku says.

I didn’t even check until after your post, but indeed, this story was in The Netherlands, so translation error might be exactly what happened here.

As I said elsewhere. I think the term depends on the disabled person and their up bringing. It’s sort of the same with First Persons (ie Native people) and what they want to be called. Some folks might have grown up with one term and might be prefered to be called that and another group might have been brought up with another term.

I think it’s ok if it’s a sports term (when there’s bowling the handicap gives my team an average score) or if the person is using the term themselves. But it’s might become an issue when someone else uses it for a disabled person. Would they call a BIPOC a N**? I don’t think so

Building on Stephen and Murdocku’s comments: within the context, the poster is talking about a minor, intermittent, issue that can sometimes make certain tasks slightly more difficult, rather than a complete inability to carry out a task.

That’s literally the definition of a “handicap”. Calling it a “disability” would be, as it were, making a mountain out of a molehill; the word is usually reserved for issues significantly more impactful — and, there is absolutely no suggestion anywhere in the story that the poster has a disability, just occasional momentary confusion. You might as well start claiming that sometimes mixing up the spelling of certain words suddenly qualifies as a “disability”.


As a British disabled person, the word is very unpopular here. I wouldnt call it offensive, but its definitely unfavourable. I even know of a few disabled Americans that are turning against the word in favour of disabled.
I dont think that word is appropriate in the situation used in this story, i would prefer it simply be called an issue. A disability is more serious than simply not being able to tell your left from your right.


I’m disabled and I don’t find it offensive. Heck it’s even used in golf.

In my mother tongue the word handicap is an old-fashioned term which is constantly being replaced with new and political correct(er) terms.
It’s still commonly used in words like “handikappsparkering” (parking spot for disabled) or “handikappstoalett” (public restroom for disabled)

I can’t speak for others if it’s offensive, but the word is probably not up to date anymore