Use words and images that portray disabled people in ways that promote equality, inclusion and full citizenship.
The language or images you use can play a major role in shaping how we think about people and situations, so avoid using any that contribute to society’s negative stereotypes.
The social and medical models of disability
When describing people and situations, use the social model of disability.
The social model
The social model recognises that people have various physical and/or intellectual impairments, but disability occurs where social attitudes, systems, practices, and the designed environment do not accommodate those people and their impairments. And this creates a barrier to their full participation.
The medical model
The now out-of-date medical model views disability as a problem with the person’s body, something to be corrected, as much as is possible, through medical intervention.
- Use asset-based language, not deficit-based language — focus on positive outcomes and personal strengths, rather than problems and barriers.
- Use language that respects disabled people as active individuals with control over their own lives.
- Do not use language that portrays disabled people as victims, such as “suffers from” and “challenged”.
- Common phrases that may associate impairments with negative things should be avoided, for example, “deaf to our pleas”, “wheelchair-bound”, or “blind drunk.”
The Readability Guidelines include detailed guidelines on the following topics:
- Use respectful terms for disability, mental health and dying.
- Avoid referencing age unless it's absolutely relevant.
- Avoid referencing gender unless it's absolutely relevant.
- Avoid referencing medical, mental or cognitive condition unless it’s absolutely relevant.
- Avoid referencing heritage and nationality unless it's absolutely relevant.
- Use ‘inclusive’ or ‘accessible’ for things designed to provide an equal experience.
- The language about disability — Office for Disability Issues