In the context of usable security (related to computer science), a major challenge is to provide security means in such a way that all of the people including those with some disabilities (e.g., blindness and deafness) be able to use information systems. So, in some cases we need to refer to these two general group of users. The question is how to do so in a respectful way. For example, referring them as ordinary and disabled users is a bit harsh.

Also, I don't like using "disabled users and users without any type of disabilities" to refer them.

What's the best way to describe these two group of users? Shorter options are preferred!

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    users with and without disabilities. Jun 3, 2015 at 8:22
  • My Mac has settings for Universal Access. I suppose you could talk about users needing UA or not, though it is still a bit clunky. Your suspicion that there is no easy way to say "ordinary" users without giving offence is correct. For ghod's sake don't use "normal"!
    – David Pugh
    Jun 3, 2015 at 8:25
  • I don't know what's wrong with using 'disabled'. Last time I've checked the word carried no offense or shame? If you meet someone who's leg don't work, will you say they are working differently?
    – Zikato
    Jun 3, 2015 at 8:53
  • This isn't actually independent of system design -- do you want one system that works for all, or some set of alternatives with the aim of covering as many disabilities as possible? (Of course these may affect the security or provide new points to attack).
    – Chris H
    Jun 3, 2015 at 12:14
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    As noted in the comments and answers and based on my experiences, even if people have no problem calling them disabled, it's absolutely not respectful to do so. In fact, they have special needs and requirements such as most of users. Agreed with you that remarkable numbers of people have some type of disability and weakness and in this regard we must respect to differences. This is why I'm looking for an appropriate way to express that.
    – Eilia
    Jun 4, 2015 at 5:38

3 Answers 3


'Users without any type of disabilities' can simply be called regular users, if that isn't ambiguously mean frequent users in your case.

For others, if you don't like 'disabled', you could say 'differently abled' users. But note that...

Differently abled was first proposed (in the 1980s) as an alternative to disabled, handicapped, etc. on the grounds that it gave a more positive message and so avoided discrimination towards people with disabilities. The term has gained little currency, however, and has been criticized as both over-euphemistic and condescending. The accepted term in general use is still disabled. (Oxford)

If that doesn't work, consider physically challanged:

a euphemism for disabled (usually preceded by an adverb):

physically challenged.


  • 1
    Using "regular" in opposition to disabled is a bad idea. Consider the more commonly used synonym "normal". Now ask someone "are you disabled or normal?" That's what you're implying by contrasting "regular" and "without disability" users.
    – Chris H
    Jun 3, 2015 at 9:56
  • @ChrisH: Hmm. Any suggestions? Will common be acceptable? I only used regular because regular users is commonplace in the sense of frequent users and so I hoped it wouldn't have any negative connotations.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jun 3, 2015 at 9:57
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    I think setting up a situation where you have to have an opposite to "disabled" is problematic. If you're referring to physical disabilities only you can use "physically able" or "able bodied" if you really have to. Sensory disabilities don't lead to an obvious equivalent. There's a bit of a move towards phrases like "people with disabilities" rather than "disabled people": people first, then with a particular attribute, rather than "disabled" as a defining characteristic (in some circles). I'm not an expert on the use of inclusive language though, just picked up a few themes.
    – Chris H
    Jun 3, 2015 at 10:18
  • Physically/mentally challenged users may be an appropriate option. Moreover, an expert in the field of security told me not to use regular, ordinary and normal to refer to general users.
    – Eilia
    Jun 3, 2015 at 11:41
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    @Eilia: Just read brasshat's answer. Essentially his suggestion is what I said in the previous comment. But I still think you could more succintly call then general (needs) and special (needs) users.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jun 5, 2015 at 6:29

It seems to me that the underlying issue here is not the varying characteristics of the users, it is the need to adapt the system to meet their special requirements, for example, the implementation of a means to adjust the font size for those who have certain vision issues, or to change screen colors for some who have color blindness. In general, I would argue that the issues involved have less to do with the users conditions, and more to do with the needs of accommodating certain types of users. Besides different ability levels, there are other circumstances that would require similar accommodation, for example, users with a general security clearance, and those who have higher levels of clearance. To deal with all of these issues, in my own work, I favor the characterization "users" for the general case, and "users with special requirements", when there are accommodations required for a special circumstance, such as someone who might be color blind, or someone who might have hearing problems.

  • Interesting perspective!
    – Eilia
    Jun 3, 2015 at 11:44

You're probably better off with a phrase here. You might describe the system as "usable regardless of physical ability" for example. This allows you to include people with infirmities (that might be regarded as normal old age, for example) without actually defining them as disabled. It doesn't make any statement about intellectual ability. It doesn't explicitly refer to sensory abilities, so might be interpreted as meaning that the system works if you can't use your hands, but not if you're blind. In that case you could say "regardless of physical or sensory ability". The "sensory ability" case also covers colour-blindness, without calling it a disability.

Good luck designing such a system though -- what if the user is deaf and blind for example.

There are other approaches you could take in the wording (and design) such as "designed for use with any assistive technology" (or "...device")

  • 1
    I mean disability in its general form, including cognitive and mental disability. "designed for use with any assistive technology", It's interesting.
    – Eilia
    Jun 3, 2015 at 11:35
  • Cognitive is tricky -- where do you draw the line? Does your user need to be able to read/comprehend speech? Do they need to be able to form words? Sentences? (They may of course not be able to do any of those in a specific case due to a language barrier). The downside of my last suggestion is that some people may struggle but use your system without assistive technology - perhaps they have no control over the system they're using. The "universal access(ibility)" from @David Pugh's comment may be more fitting, but can imply settings that the user must customise - nothing universal about it
    – Chris H
    Jun 3, 2015 at 12:12
  • Of course in some cases cognitive tasks are far better for distinguishing human users and machines. For example, in the case of HIPs, simple cognitive questions (tests) such as "What color in the sky?" may be preferred since users with motion disabilities or deaf persons easily can pass them. However, more complicated cognitive tests cause some problems for some users.
    – Eilia
    Jun 3, 2015 at 12:21

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