03 Language and etiquette when engaging with disabled visitors
The following are preferred terms as currently used by many disabled people. Most disabled people will have definite views on how they want to be described – not necessarily these listed below.
- disabled people
- learning difficulties or disabilities
- has (rather than ‘suffers from’)
It is worth noting that an increasing number of disabled people make a very clear distinction between impairment (their illness or condition) and disability (the barriers which disable them).
They describe themselves as disabled according to the Social Model of Disability which maintains the above distinction in terminology.
See the Useful Terms and Definitions section for more information on terminology
Labelling of Deaf people
There are various terms that people tend to use. Most are linked to medical language such as those listed below:
- Congenitally deaf – Deaf at birth
- Pre-lingually deaf – Deaf before acquiring language
- Post-lingually deaf – Deaf after acquiring language
- Adventitiously deaf – Becoming Deaf
More common terms used are:
- Totally Deaf
- Profoundly Deaf
- Severely Deaf
- Partially Deaf
- Hard of Hearing
- Hearing Impaired
- Deaf with or without speech
Remember that as an organisation you should promote the terms that show respect and recognition towards disabled people. By using the appropriate terms consistently in all your promotional and marketing materials, policies and procedures and in customer facing situations, your organisation will send out a positive and welcoming message about its accessibility and approach.