This guide has been written by people with disability to assist the general public & the media in talking about and reporting on disability.
Words matter when it comes to talking about people with disability.
This guide from People With Disability Australia PWDA is written by people with disability. It offers best practice advice to assist all people.
- 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 ableist and offensive language.
Language and disability
The choices people make about language have an impact on the way people with disability feel and are perceived in society. It is important there is awareness of the meaning behind the words that are used when talking to, referring to, or working with people with disability.
Disrespectful language can make people with disability feel hurt and excluded and be a barrier to full participation in society.
Over four million Australians with disability watch television, read online stories, listen to the radio or podcasts and share news on social media. Yet, discussions and media stories about us don’t reflect the diversity or reality of our lives.
People with disability are often described in ways that are disempowering, discriminatory, degrading and offensive. Negative words such as ‘victim’ or ‘sufferer’ reinforce stereotypes that people with disability are unhappy about our lives, wish we were ‘normal’, and should be viewed as objects of pity.
These harmful stereotypes are simply not true.
People with disability are people first, who have families, who work, and who participate in our communities. People with disability want our lives to be respected and affirmed. In addition, many people with disability are proud of being disabled, and want that identity respected.
- Making Advocacy Accessible collection in the Commons Library
- Framing Issues for Social Justice Impact: Directory of Messaging Guides
- People With Disability Australia PWDA website