Your guide to inclusive language

Your guide to inclusive language

Language is the most powerful communication tool anyone can use. Yet sometimes it’s hard to know if what you’re saying is appropriate and sometimes we can get it wrong. When talking about people with disability there a few tips to ensure you are inclusive when you’re communicating. See the tips below:

People with disability are people

Person-first language, unsurprisingly puts the person first and not the disability. Using the disability as the descriptor for someone (eg. Autistic person) places a focus on their disability. By placing emphasis on the person first, it signifies that the disability does not define that person. While it may seem grammatically incorrect, person or people with disability are the recommended terms to use. This is because you are unaware of everyone’s situation and by referring to their disability with an ‘a’ in front of it and not the plural ‘disabilities’, it provides a broad reaching term that is inclusive.

Avoid using terms like – “autistic person” or “disabled person”.
Use terms like – “person with autism” or “person with disability”.

People with disability are not victims

No one suffers from a disability. A disability is a part of someone’s identity and they should not be made to feel like a victim or someone to be pitied.

Avoid using terms like – “suffers from depression” or “depression sufferer”.
Use terms like – “John has depression” or “John experiences depression.”

People with disability are not courageous

Just because someone has a disability does not mean they are courageous or brave. Sure, if the person you’re talking to has done something incredible, it’s appropriate. But if they’re just living their life, however that may be, it’s probably not something that deserves praise.

Avoid using terms like – “brave” , “courageous” or “inspiring” unless they’re appropriate.

People with disability are not physically challenged

While it may seem euphemistic, calling someone who use a wheelchair physically challenged can cause offense. As People with Disability Australia say “the wheelchair is what enables a person to get around and participate in society; it’s liberating, not confining.”

Avoid using terms like – “physically challenged” or “differently abled”.
Use terms like – “wheelchair user” 

When in doubt about what language to use, just call a person with disability by their name.

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  1. ‘Inclusive Language’ 2018, Australian Network on Disability.
  2. ‘How to talk about disability’ 2018, People with Disability Australia