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Ability and disability

Every person is a whole person no matter how they interact with the world. Focus on what they need to do and what tools they use. As with language around race, gender, and other identities, it’s always best to ask people how they identify rather than making assumptions.

If a person's situation, medical condition, illness, or injury is relevant to the content, be as specific as possible and avoid inserting value judgements about their circumstance (for example, use "has multiple sclerosis'" not "suffers from multiple sclerosis").

The word disabled is a description not a group of people. Use "disabled people" not "people with disabilities" or "the disabled" as the collective term. For example:

We want disabled people to be able to access all of our facilities.

Several disabled students spoke at the conference.

This language is in line with the social model of disability which says that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference.

Avoid common phrases that may associate impairments with negative things such as "the request fell on deaf ears" or "blind spot".

Avoid terms that contribute to stigmas around disability or mental health conditions: crazy, dumb, lame, insane, psycho, schizophrenic, or stupid.

Avoid describing people as mentally ill. Instead say someone has a mental health condition or mental health problems.

Disability charity Scope has more helpful guidance on language to use and to avoid.

This guidance draws on the 18F style guide and the NHS content style guide.