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Disability equality toolkit: Talking about disability equality

Disability language dos and don’ts.

Disability toolkit graphic

Disability equality toolkit

Useful tools for reps to help them support disabled members.

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It’s up to each of us to take responsibility and address where we are failing to meet our collective standards and move to being in a place where conversations are inclusive and promote good practice.

Certain language is now agreed as unacceptable or offensive in relation to race, gender and LGBT+ equality and the same applies to disability equality.

The table below lists some of the positive language that is preferred when talking about or to Disabled people. It is important to communicate with disabled people in an appropriate and accessible format e.g., colour paper, correct font size etc.

Ensure your school / college / setting has a robust policy in place for managing incidents of students making disablist comments towards each other or staff.

Talking about disability equality



wheelchair user wheelchair bound/invalid
nonverbal dumb
included integrated/tolerated
disabled person people with disabilities / crippled / handicapped / spastic
independent dependent
Non-disabled person differently able
invisible impairment / non apparent impairment hidden disability (could denote shame)
at greater risk of Vulnerable / a victim of / sufferer
neurodivergent freak / mental / moron


  • Try to embed good, inclusive and accessible practice in everything you do – this will be good for everyone, and it will mean that disabled people are not singled out.
  • Listen to the voices of disabled people as they are best placed to advise on their needs.
  • Remember that disability is intersectional, seek out different views.
  • Challenge disability discrimination wherever it raises its head.
  • Be respectful of individual experiences.
  • Promote the social model of disability.
  • Challenge your own assumptions.
  • Promote disability equality.


  • Challenge a disabled person about their disability when they disclose.
  • Assume you know what a disabled person needs.
  • Speak on behalf of a disabled person unless they ask you to do so.
  • Ask intrusive questions about a disabled person’s health or what they can or cannot do.
  • Expect a disabled person to teach you everything about how to be inclusive.
  • Assume that a disabled person’s life is any less diverse, complex, happy or sad than that of a non-disabled person.
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