Accessibility is the attempt to make all copy as useful and approachable for as many people as possible.
Not everyone agrees on the correct terminology to use in regards to disability, but the following are some general rules to follow.
The word “disabled” is a description not a group of people. Use “disabled people” not “the disabled” as the collective term.
The University of Nottingham works hard to ensure that disabled people are able to access all facilities.
One disabled student spoke at the conference.
Many deaf people whose first language is BSL consider themselves part of “the deaf community” – they may describe themselves as “Deaf” (capitalised) to emphasise their deaf identity.
James told the group that he was Deaf.
Avoid medical labels. They say little about people as individuals and tend to reinforce stereotypes of disable people as “patients” or unwell.
Consider alternatives to “disabled people” such as “people with health conditions or impairments” when it is appropriate.
Avoid phrases like “suffers from” which has negative connotations. Instead consider framing things in more positive language.
Wheelchairs were provided to those who wanted to use them as an aid to mobility.
Do not try and change your language to fit an audience you perceive to be made up of disabled people. People who use wheelchairs “go for walks” and people with visual impairments can be “pleased to see you”. An impairment may just mean some things are done in a different way. Do, however, avoid common phrases that may associate impairments with negative things such as "deaf to our pleads” or “blind drunk”
As a general rule unless there is an extremely good reason, simply avoid making distinctions of cultures, race, tradition etc. There needs to be a specific and convincing reason to use language which refers to individuals by their culture, ethnicity or background.
Avoid framing words to identify people from a specific perspective. For example, terms such as “non-white” or “non-European” should be avoided as they define culture and race from a white or European perspective.
The term “ethnicity” is used to refer to the sense of identify which derives from shared cultural characteristics such as language, religion, history or geographical location. Everyone belong to an ethnic group. Do not use this term to describe someone’s racial origin.
Generalist terms like “black people” have confused and often contradictory meanings, and should be avoided. Instead avoid over-generalisation and, where it is appropriate, refer to an individual’s country of origin instead.
Gender and sexuality
Do not use “he” to refer to an unspecified person – instead use “they” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. "They" should also be used to refer to those who identify as non-binary or otherwise request the use of this pronoun.
When the lecturer arrives they will be required to fill out the appropriate paperwork.
When using words for particular roles that are associated with gender, consider if you would describe someone not of the specified gender using that term – if you would not, use a different term to describe that role. If at all possible use a gender-neutral term.
Not all people associate with either male or female, and you must be considerate of this. When designing forms allow those using it to define their own gender or at least include a “Not specified” option. If at all possible use gender-neutral terms of address unless speaking about someone who has identified as a member of a particular gender.
chair [instead of chairman or chairwoman]
homemaker [instead of housewife or househusband]
Avoid describing individuals in regards to their sexuality if at all possible. Where it is essential, consider what the individual has expressed their sexuality to be, and use their own terms. If you do not know and still need to describe them, use the term “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ)”.
The speaker was invited to talk on LGBTQ issues.
Stephen Fry is gay [this is the term he uses].
If at all possible you should attempt to use words that are part of “common usage”. Roughly 5,000 words of vocabulary make up the vast majority of the words we use, with an additional 10,000 words enhancing our understanding. When you have the option of which word to use, always choose the word which is shorter, more recognisable, and easier to understand.
The student aggreed to the lecturer's request.
The student acquiesced to the lecturer's entreaty.
When possible, to allow for difficulties with comprehension, attempt to keep sentences as short as possible. If your sentence contains exclusively plain English words then a maximum of 25 words is acceptable – if you have included more complex words, then try and reduce sentence length to eight words or less.
When you come to university you can choose a self-catered hall so you can choose where to eat.
The halls of residence available once you matriculate are varied; you will find that many of them are self-catered and thus allow you to experience the gastonomic variety of Nottingham's many eateries.
All attempts should be made to write in Plain English.
Images and videos
When you include images in a document (for print or web) or a video (on the web) you should always include a plain English description of the content if it is essential to understanding. For videos you should also, wherever possible, include a full transcript so those with visual impairment are able to access the content equally.
When you include audio content (on the web) you should provide a transcript or at least a detailed description to allow for those with auditory impairments to be able to understand the content fully.
Return to The University of Nottingham Style Guide