Accessibility guide cover 2nd edition

Accessible language and content


When talking with and about disabled people, we are respectful and courteous.

  • Keep language clear, accurate and neutral – follow plain language principles.
  • It is often not appropriate to name a person’s impairment/s or ask what their impairment/s is/are, unless confidentially such as in a survey.
  • Don’t define someone by their impairment or the equipment they use.
  • Use neutral language – the art of discussing difficult issues while still maintaining dignity and respect for each other.
  • Use inclusive language – avoid creating or perpetuating negative social stereotypes. Use “person uses a wheelchair”, rather than being confined to a wheelchair. Or, someone may “have an impairment”, but they neither “suffer” from it, nor are they “afflicted” with it. Other language that is inappropriate includes “mental retardation” and “deaf mute”.
  • It’s important not to make assumptions about a disabled person’s needs or capabilities based on your own preconceptions.

In New Zealand, we use the term “disabled person/people” as outlined in the New Zealand Disability Strategy rather than “person/people with a disability”.

In this context, “disabled” refers to things outside the person that impact on them and put barriers in the way of them participating in the world we all live in. These barriers can be both attitudinal and physical. By using the term “disabled people” we are indicating that we need to do something about the barriers that disable them.

Images of disabled people

Information about disabled people should show them as people in society and not create an impression of separateness or specialness. Images should be age appropriate.

  • Disabled people should be included in general illustrations to show they are part of the community like everyone else.
  • Show disabled people in everyday social situations and work environments.
  • Show diversity amongst disabled people – disabled people can be any ethnicity, any relationship or family status etc.
  • Some impairments are not visible or obvious. Don’t go out of your way to accentuate a person’s disability in photos/images.

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Accessibility guide cover 2nd edition
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