This guide has been written by people with disability to assist the general public and media outlets in talking about and reporting on 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 that 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.

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 their lives, wish they were ‘normal’, and should be viewed as objects of pity.

These harmful stereotypes are simply not true. People with disability are people first – people who have families, who work, and who participate in the community. People with disability want their lives to be respected and affirmed. In addition, many people with disability are proud of being disabled, and want that identity respected.

The guide covers:

  • Social model of disability
  • Human rights model of disability
  • Identity-first vs person-first language
  • Ableism and the impact of ableist language
  • Reporting on disability
  • Whose story are you telling?
  • Who is telling the story? 
  • Words to describe people with disability 
  • Commonly used phrases
  • Glossary of terms
Publication Details
Access Rights Type:
Version 2