Introduction to Accessible Design in Media

FOCUS AREA SIX
Language (Part Two)

Deepening Your Understanding

Persons with disabilities are a diverse group, and experience disability, impairment and societal barriers in many different ways. Disabilities can be invisible and episodic, with people sometimes experiencing periods of wellness and periods of disability. All people with disabilities have the same rights to equal opportunities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, whether their disabilities are visible or not and temporary or not (Ontario Human Right Commission, 2017).

Here are some important definitions adapted from the Ontario Human Rights Commissionopen new window:

Attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities. People with disabilities are assumed to be less worthy of respect and consideration, less able to contribute and take part, and of less value than other people. Ableism can be conscious or unconscious and is embedded in institutions, systems or the broader culture of a society.

A general term for the degree of ease that something (e.g., device, service, physical environment and information) can be accessed, used and enjoyed by persons with disabilities. The term implies conscious planning, design and/or effort to make sure something is barrier-free to persons with disabilities. Accessibility also benefits the general population, by making things more usable and practical for everyone, including older people and families with small children.

Many people understand disability as a medical condition that a person has. From this perspective, disability covers many conditions: some visible and some not visible, some present at birth and others acquired over time. These conditions have many names. They might be called physical, mental, learning disabilities, or something more specific such as vision impairment. Some people wish to cure disability while others don't.

However, disability is also a cultural idea and a way to understand identities. The word “disability” is political, and has historical ties to disability rights movements in many countries. For many, disability is not only a medical condition that a person has. Rather, disability is a result of barriers that prevent people from fully participating in society. Some people find pride in the word “disability” and re-claim the word as a positive part of their identities.

There are many different ways to think about the term "disability" therefore it is important never to rely on only one definition of the word (Dr. C. Jones, personal correspondence, March 3, 2017).

A physical, sensory, intellectual, learning or medical condition, including mental illness,that limits functioning and/or requires accommodation. Impairment may be apparent to others or hidden, inherited, self-inflicted or acquired, and may exist alone or in combination with other impairments. Impairment can affect anyone (whatever their gender, sex, race, culture, age, religion, creed, etc.).

In recommending specific language and terminology for use in broadcast news, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Canada, The Association of Electronic Journalists note the following:

  1. Legal terminology and the legal names of groups or associations will be retained in news reporting.
  2. The context of a news story may determine the choice of language and terminology that is used. For example, some news subjects with disabilities may self-identify in a manner that is different from the language recommended. To respect the preference of the news subject, the terminology used in self-identifying would be applied.
  3. Reporting of a news story may involve the good faith use of language and terminology based on a story’s unique perspective or events. For example, the views and direct quotes of those interviewed for a story would be reported as conveyed by them.
Not Recommended Recommended
Birth defect, deformity/deformed, congenital defect Person born with a disability
The blind, the visually impaired Person living with vision loss, person who is blind, person who has a vision impairment
Confined to a wheelchair Person who uses a wheelchair or wheelchair user
Crippled or lame Person with a disability or person with a/who has a motion disability; person with a spinal cord injury, etc.
Deaf-mute, deaf and dumb Culturally-linguistically Deaf people (that is, those who use sign language to communicate) are identified as ‘Deaf’ (with an upper-case ‘D’). People who do not use sign language are identified as ‘deaf’ (with a lower-case ‘d’), or ‘people who are deaf’.
Hard of hearing or hearing-impaired Person with a hearing loss (may use a spoken language such as English or French to communicate)
An epileptic Person with epilepsy
The handicapped, a handicap Person with a disability (handicaps are environmental conditions, such as ‘this person is ‘handicapped’ by negative attitudes or lack of accessibility’)
Handicapped parking Accessible parking
Handicapped bathrooms Accessible bathrooms
Particular references to mental health and well-being such as lunatic, mental patient, mental disease, neurotic, psychotic Person with a mental health disability, person who has/ person diagnosed with depression/ schizophrenia, etc. Terminology varies between countries; ‘insane’ and ‘insanity’ are generally legal terms and reported as such in news programming
Invalid Person with a disability
Learning disabled, learning disorder Person with a learning disability or persons with learning disabilities
Mentally retarded, retarded, mentally defective, mentally challenged Person with an intellectual disability; many countries use ‘Person with a developmental disability’
Physically challenged Person with a disability (challenges are environmental conditions)
Suffers from; afflicted by; stricken with, etc. Person with a disability, person who has (a particular condition)
Victim of (a condition such as multiple sclerosis, a stroke, cerebral palsy) Person who has (a particular condition) or a person who has had a stroke

Not Recommended: Birth defect, deformity/deformed, congenital defect

Recommended: Person born with a disability

Not Recommended: The blind, the visually impaired

Recommended: Person living with vision loss, person who is blind, person who has a vision impairment

Not Recommended: Confined to a wheelchair

Recommended: Person who uses a wheelchair or wheelchair user

Not Recommended: Crippled or lame

Recommended: Person with a disability or person with a/who has a motion disability; person with a spinal cord injury, etc.

Not Recommended: Deaf-mute, deaf and dumb

Recommended: Culturally-linguistically Deaf people (that is, those who use sign language to communicate) are identified as ‘Deaf’ (with an upper-case ‘D’). People who do not use sign language are identified as ‘deaf’ (with a lower-case ‘d’), or ‘people who are deaf’.

Not Recommended: Hard of hearing or hearing-impaired

Recommended: Person with a hearing loss (may use a spoken language such as English or French to communicate)

Not Recommended: An epileptic

Recommended: Person with epilepsy

Not Recommended: The handicapped, a handicap

Recommended: Person with a disability (handicaps are environmental conditions, such as ‘this person is ‘handicapped’ by negative attitudes or lack of accessibility’)

Not Recommended: Handicapped parking

Recommended: Accessible parking

Not Recommended: Handicapped bathrooms

Recommended: Accessible bathrooms

Not Recommended: Particular references to mental health and well-being such as lunatic, mental patient, mental disease, neurotic, psychotic

Recommended: Person with a mental health disability, person who has/ person diagnosed with depression/ schizophrenia, etc. Terminology varies between countries; ‘insane’ and ‘insanity’ are generally legal terms and reported as such in news programming

Not Recommended: Invalid

Recommended: Person with a disability

Not Recommended: Learning disabled, learning disorder

Recommended: Person with a learning disability or persons with learning disabilities

Not Recommended: Mentally retarded, retarded, mentally defective, mentally challenged

Recommended: Person with an intellectual disability; many countries use ‘Person with a developmental disability’

Not Recommended: Physically challenged

Recommended: Person with a disability (challenges are environmental conditions)

Not Recommended: Suffers from; afflicted by; stricken with, etc.

Recommended: Person with a disability, person who has (a particular condition)

Not Recommended: Victim of (a condition such as multiple sclerosis, a stroke, cerebral palsy)

Recommended: Person who has (a particular condition) or a person who has had a stroke

— Adapted from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and the RTDNA Canada, Association of Electronic Journalists

Dr. Chelsea Jones notes that it is important to consider whether or not disability is relevant to the story at all. The idea being that if disability—like race, spirituality, sexuality, gender, immigration status, class, and age—is not relevant to the story, there is not always need to bring it up (Dr. C. Jones, personal correspondence, March 3, 2017).