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Get the Facts: Talking About Disability

The language of disability is always evolving and different terms are used within and outside of Australia. It can be political, it can be personal, and it can be quite confusing. Here are a few tips to help you on your way.

Important things to remember:

  • Avoid stereotypical or stigmatising depiction of Deaf and Disabled people
  • Avoid phrases and words that demean Deaf and Disabled people
  • Deaf and Disabled people are not ‘suffering from’, ‘victims of’ or ‘afflicted by’ their disability
  • Deaf and Disabled people are not overcoming their disability, but the barriers that the rest of society puts in front of them
  • Deaf and Disabled people should not be portrayed as courageous or tortured, but rather as individuals who find alternative means to accomplish everyday activities

AAV’s supports self-determination and respects how Deaf and Disabled people choose to label and define disability in their own way.

AAV uses the term ‘Deaf and Disabled people’, in line with the Social Model of Disability.

We use this definition as an act of pride and solidarity, and as a link to disability cultural identity, experience and community.

We use it to include anyone with a lived experience of disability, whether that’s visible or invisible, sensory or physical, neurodiverse, cognitive, intellectual or developmental, or of mental health or illness. We respect the right of the Deaf community to label their experience as one of cultural and linguistic difference.

Words we recommend Words we don’t recommend
Deaf and Disabled people/person The disabled
People/person with a disability
People/person with disabilities
Differently abled / diffabilty
Physically challenged
Special needs
Non-disabled people/person People/person without disability
Wheelchair user Wheelchair bound
Bound/confined to a wheelchair
Vision impaired
Low vision
The Blind
Visually impaired
Person without sight
Deaf people/person
Auslan user
Hard of hearing
The Deaf
Deaf and dumb
Deaf and mute
Hearing impaired
Learning disabled
Learning disability
Intellectual disability
Slow learner
Person of short stature Midget
Mental health issues Mental health problems
Mental illness
Accessible toilet Disabled toilet
Accessible parking Disabled parking
With a lived experience of
Suffers from
Afflicted with
Victim of
Do you have any access requirements? Do you have a disability?
Inclusive (except where ‘inclusive’ is used to mean ‘disability-only’) All-abilities
Support worker
Personal Assistant
First Peoples Aboriginal
He/she (where someone has told us their pronouns)
Non-gender specific terms (waiter, actor, etc
He/she (where someone hasn’t told us their pronouns)
Gender specific terms (waitress, actress, etc)