Inclusive Language

Language has an important role in promoting the dignity and rights of people with disabilities. How we speak about, and with, people with disabilities creates impressions, forms views and influences relationships. The language you use in written and verbal communication can impact on inclusion. Protecting and promoting disability rights requires the adoption of measures to change attitudes and behaviours which perpetuate stigma and marginalisation for people with disabilities. This includes putting in place the policies, laws, programs and language that removes barriers and promotes the rights of people with disabilities.

Different terms are used in different countries which may be due to cultural reasons or translation. It is important to know what words and terms are preferred in the context where you are working. To understand the appropriate terms to use, ask people with disabilities or disabled peoples organisations (DPO) . There is an important distinction between identify first language (disabled people) and person-first language (people with disabilities) and it’s useful to know that different disability groups in different contexts having different preferences.

When writing or speaking about people with disabilities, it is important (where known) to use the person’s preferred identity language (e.g. Deaf person, person who uses a wheelchair, Autistic). If you’re unaware of the person’s preferred identify language, person-first language is encouraged (e.g. ‘person with disability’). Avoid terms which focus on a negative view of disability, confuse disability with illness, describe disability from a perspective of pity or charity, or that would be considered inappropriate / offensive.

Language matters, and it’s important that when we both implicitly and directly mention terms associated with disability that we communicate respectfully and are aware of which terms may contribute to further marginalisation.

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) (2021) PWDA Language Guide: A guide to language about disability

People with disability are often described in ways that discriminate and demean us. Expressions such as ‘victim’ or ‘sufferer’ suggest we are unhappy about our lives, or that we wish we were ‘normal’. Words like these contain an implicit, and deeply offensive, assumption that we are to be viewed as objects of pity. They perpetuate harmful stereotypes. This guide: • Unpacks some of the key factors which influence disability-related language • Provides advice for media workers around reporting on disability-related content • Identifies commonly misused terms and recommends suitable alternatives. Content note: This guide contains examples of offensive language.

United Nations (2021) Disability-Inclusive Language Guidelines

These practical guidelines aim to foster the consistent use of respectful language at the United Nations. They contain the general principles that should be applied, and are intended to be practical and easy to use. Annex I contains a table summarizing both the recommended terminology and the terms that are considered inappropriate. Annex II consists of a list of terms that require additional clarification from a language perspective in order to avoid common mistakes and to comply with United Nations terminology standards. The use of derogatory or inappropriate language may amount to discrimination and impinge on the enjoyment of human rights. By adopting language that celebrates diversity, we will contribute to strengthening the human rights model of disability and to creating a more inclusive United Nations.

United Nations (2022) Disability-Inclusive Communications Guidelines

The UN's Disability-Inclusive Communications Guidelines exist to support UN staff and development/humanitarian workers to make all our communications disability-inclusive and accessible. Inclusive and accessible communications reduce bias and discrimination, and promote inclusion and participation. The guidelines can support people when they send emails and meeting notes, prepare documents, participate in community consultations, communicate through digital platforms, or run multi-channel campaigns that exploit a range of media. Supported by best practices and examples, they provide guidance on how to respect disability etiquette and create inclusive and accessible content.

Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU). eLearning: How to be disability-inclusive

By the end of the course you will be able to: -Know what inclusive language to use -Understand what inclusion means to people with disability -Understand what disability etiquette is and how to meet, write and talk about people with disability. -Know how to be inclusive for people with disability in different work and social settings -Be able to identify exclusionary practice and policy or finding ways to break down barriers

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