Language guide

This guide has been written by people with disability to assist the Australian 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.

There are over 4 million Australians with disability who 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 – people 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.

Content note: This guide contains ableist and offensive language.

You can download the full Language Guide as an accessible PDF.