I have several phones with various irreparable faults; although they are not fatal, they render the phones partially unusable and require specialized care.

Calling a phone "disabled" implies you need to reset it, not that it has a fault. Saying "phones with disabilities", feels wrong and awkward.

However, calling these phones "special needs" feels correct and natural, and doesn't imply needing a reset. However, the term "special needs" is considered ableist by some, and I want to avoid using words that some could take offense to.

Is there a suitable alternative?

  • You may be getting yourself into trouble with euphemisms instead of saying the phones are broken, unusable, messed up. Mar 10 at 22:37
  • kinda fucked, partly working, semi-functional - do you have a particular register or thing you are writing?
    – Stuart F
    Mar 10 at 23:02
  • 1
    "Phones with disabilities" doesn't make any sense; "disability" isn't applied to inanimate objects the way "disabled" is. Nor is "special needs."
    – alphabet
    Mar 10 at 23:08
  • Exactly. I'm trying to find a term that isn't offensive, and also has the implication I want.
    – QueenieLou
    Mar 11 at 0:14

2 Answers 2


The word "disabled" can be applied to devices and machines, where it means "rendered inoperative". Doing so is not an insult (since a machine can't be insulted). There is no need to euphemize the word when applied to a device.

If a phone is not completely inoperative there are plenty of words that can be used to describe it. "Partially disabled" is fine. "Broken" or "partially functioning" are two examples, but checking for synonyms should get you exactly the one you want.

Saying the phone has "special needs" or is a "phone with disabilities" is going to be offensive to people hearing it, because it sounds like you are making fun of terms people use for themselves by applying them to phones. Don't do it. Don't even think about doing it.

  • I see your point
    – QueenieLou
    Mar 10 at 23:30
  • The phones in question are not completely non-functional (the word for that is dead), they do however have faults that make them hard to use.
    – QueenieLou
    Mar 10 at 23:53
  • My second paragraph covers that. Mar 11 at 18:20

I have decided the phones will be termed "functionally impaired".

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