Effective date: 18th January 2023
At Open Inclusion we wish to communicate in an open, considerate, clear and useful manner. Please hold us to this standard.
We wish to use written language in all our communications that is consistently respectful of everyone.
To do this, we’ve chosen to use preferred language for disability in accordance with the UN Guidelines (UN Disability Inclusive Language Guidelines). This can be difficult at times, as language regarding disability varies throughout the community and is constantly evolving.
It is important to consider appropriate language, when talking to or about people with different lived experiences of disability. This can be difficult as there is not an agreed “correct way” to talk about disability and long-term functional differences. We know that people make different language choices based on their region or community, and even people in the same area with similar needs don’t always agree about how to use language!
At Open we strive to challenge and change social norms regarding disability and dismantle damaging stigmas and stereotypes through the use of language.
Behind any words is the intent. Our intent is to make dialogue in speech and writing easier, to support respectful human connection and understanding.
We want to enable more positive and confident communication both across the community of people who identify as disabled and between those who do, and do not identify as disabled.
Our intent and language usage aligned to it:
Preferred language varies across regions. The two main approaches are:
The UK the disability community tends to prefer identity-first language, since it is a key part of many people’s identity. Disabled people in the UK would be more likely to write or say “I’m a disabled customer who regularly uses your delivery service” or “This would support disabled people’s needs.”
The Northern American disability community tends to prefer person-first language. It respects the individual first and their access needs second. People with disabilities in North America would be more likely to say, “I am a customer with a disability who regularly uses your delivery service” or “This would support people with disability needs”.
It’s important to note that not everyone within a region prefers the predominant format used across their geographical location.
Disability can be a confusing word sometimes as it can mean three different things which can each be appropriate in context:
When we use the word “disability,” we will always try to make our meaning clear based on the rest of what we write around the word.
Not all people with access needs identify as disabled.
Many people who are regularly failed by the design of environments, and who have human and legal rights due to their diverse functional needs, do not identify as disabled. We are very conscious of including them in our community, insights and work also.
Disability as an identity can be chosen by our community as and where it suits them. Some of those who do not always self-identify as disabled who we welcome to our community may include:
Many in the neurodivergent community recognise their differences but do not identify as disabled. There are also many who are undiagnosed who can be failed by poor design due to the way they receive or process information, but would not have a label to put on their different style of thinking.
Some people may identify as being a part of their specific access need community, such as autistic, hard of hearing or recovering from long COVID, but may not identify as disabled.
Within the deaf community, people who use sign languages often identify as members of a proud linguistic minority. The community of signers sometimes sets itself apart from non-signers by using by spelling “Deaf” with a capital D. Some people in this community identify as disabled and others don’t, since within their linguistic group they have full communication using a vibrant set of sign languages.
Unless we are talking about the Deaf community in this culturally specific context, we tend to use non capitalized spelling of “deaf” so that everyone with lived experience of deafness—whether they sign or not—can feel welcome to engage with our work.
Most older adults incur increasing age-related access needs as our cognitive, sensory and physical capabilities start to deteriorate , something that we may notice starting from about age 50. This happens at very varied rates between individuals. Many who incur distinct access needs in later life describe themselves as “just getting older” rather than having a disability. Some will also identify as disabled. Some of course will have grown older having already identified as disabled from a younger age.
The older community is just as diverse as any other, so there is a wonderful mix of needs, identities and perspectives.
This is one of the reasons we have a specific community welcoming older people at Open. Whether individuals have few perceivable changes as yet, multiple minor differences due to age, or some specifically disabling access needs, we welcome anyone over 65 to our community.
When we are communicating directly with or about one person (not in a broader setting like the website or an email that goes to many recipients) we will always try to use the language you prefer and identify with.
For example, if you prefer to be noted in a report as someone with hearing loss we will use that term to describe you. If you prefer hard of hearing we will use that term. As long as it is clear and accurate we describe you as you prefer.
Of course the easiest language to use is your name when we are working directly with you!
Disability language is constantly evolving over time, as perceptions, understanding and social norms change. We are committed to keeping up to date with preferred language and remain sensitive to changes.
Please share any opportunities for improvement on the website or in any other communication you have received from us. Also if you have appreciated our use of language please share what you liked and why you liked it.