Fact Sheet 4 - Language and Terminology
Language and Terminology Relating to Disability
There is preferred terminology relating to disability and disabled people, which has been
adopted by the IFI. This guidance is taken from large representative organisations of disabled
people such as Disabled Peoples International and British Council of Disabled People
Disabled people realise that there needs to be terminology relating to them in certain
situations, it is empowering that they decide what that language is to be. It is not about ‘being
politically correct’ but rather, about respecting disabled people and their wishes. What we say
and how we say it can have a profound effect on how people feel about themselves.
When we use words, we need to consider the effect that language can have on the receiver.
Many people dismiss or do not respect the need for guidance on language and terminology
and use the excuse that ‘it is always changing’ to avoid taking it on board. If we continue to
adopt a Social Model approach, this guidance will not change.
So it is important the EFDS OC and IFI ask you to promote preferred positive language and
terminology, but not get too hung up about it. You will come across many people, disabled
and non-disabled, who use language that the EFDS OC and IFI suggest avoiding. Firstly, they
may not know about the Social Model or they may choose to be referred to in a particular
Please find some guidance below on the correct terminology to use, together with
‘Disabled People’ is the preferred term because it is based upon the Social Model Approach
to Disability. We understand it as meaning that people are disabled by barriers they encounter
in society (e.g. access problems or people’s attitudes), not by their impairment. The disability
is not attached to the person as suggested by the term ‘people with disabilities’, which
reflects the Medical Model approach).
‘Impairment’ is the term used to describe a person’s medical condition, such as
‘hearing impairment’.The follow