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Definition of handicapped

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Houghton Mifflin

hand·i·capped  audio  (hnd-kpt) KEY 

Physically or mentally disabled: a pool equipped for handicapped swimmers.
(used with a pl. verb)
People who have a physical or mental disability considered as a group. Often used with the.

Usage Note:
Although handicapped is widely used in both law and everyday speech to refer to people having physical or mental disabilities, those described by the word tend to prefer the expressions disabled or people with disabilities. Handicapped, a somewhat euphemistic term, may imply a helplessness that is not suggested by the more forthright disabled. It is also felt that some stigma may attach to the word handicapped because of its origin in the phrase hand in cap, actually derived from a game of chance but sometimes mistakenly believed to involve the image of a beggar. The word handicapped is best reserved to describe a disabled person who is unable to function owing to some property of the environment. Thus people with a physical disability requiring a wheelchair may or may not be handicapped, depending on whether wheelchair ramps are made available to them. See Usage Note at disabled.

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