How we write about disability.
At the University of Edinburgh, the way we communicate should foster inclusion and be accessible to all. We will only mention a disability if it is relevant in context.
How we write about disability
We do not define a person or group by their disability or conditions. We recognise the social model of disability whereby a person is disabled by barriers in society, which is why the term ‘disabled person’ is preferable to a ‘person who is disabled’.
We recognise, however, that some people might prefer the term ‘person with a disability’ and we will always respect the personal views of the individuals we are writing about.
In general, we will ask people how they prefer to be described before writing about them.
The social model of disability - Scope
When we write about groups of people with a particular disability, we try to use language preferred by the group. We are aware that there may not be universal consensus around terminology and our usage of terms is on the advice of our communities, who were consulted in the production of this guide.
- Disabled person
- People living with cancer
- Wheelchair user
- Person living with dementia
We do not say
- Afflicted by
- Suffering from
- A victim of
If you would like more guidance about language to avoid, you might find it helpful to refer to the NHS Inclusive Language Guide.
When writing about accessibility arrangements, we place the word 'accessible' first.
- Accessible toilets
- Accessible transport
- Accessible websites and apps
We do not describe people as mentally ill.
- Mental health condition
When writing in general about conditions such as autism, ADHD or dyslexia, we use the word 'neurodiverse' or 'neurodiversity'. We may describe individuals as 'neurodivergent' or 'neuro-atypical,' depending on that person's preference. A person who is not neurodivergent is 'neurotypical.'
- 'We have a neurodiverse community.'
- 'They are neurodivergent.'
When writing about a person's condition, we will always ask a person how they would describe their condition(s) before we write about them.
The conversation about neurodiversity and the way we write about individuals and groups is ongoing in our communities.
Resources from the autism community
Neurodiverse or neurodivergent? It's more than just grammar: Development Autism Research Technology (DART)
Autistic Glossary: Autistic Mutual Aid Society Edinburgh (AMASE)