How we talk about disability

The social model of disability

The Accessibility and Disability Resource Centre follows the social model of disability to help people understand how to increase accessibility and encourage inclusivity at university.

The social model says that society creates barriers that disable people.

These barriers could be:

  • physical - such as not having accessible teaching spaces or accommodation
  • attitudinal - for example, having an assumption about what disabled people can achieve at university
  • organisational - for example, having policies that do not consider accessibility

Most barriers can be removed or their effects reduced. Removing barriers encourages inclusivity and helps everyone to participate in society.

The Equality Act (2010) requires us to remove barriers in education. Read more about disability rights and the Equality Act on GOV.UK.

Find more about the social model of disability from Scope

Social model language we use

We use:

  • 'disabled students' as the collective term
  • 'students or people with (name of impairment)' for example, when talking about an individual’s impairment

We do not use general terms to describe people. For example, do not use collective terms like:

  • 'the disabled', or ‘students with disabilities’
  • 'the blind'

We recognise that language about disability may be different in different countries, and that individuals will have their own preferences on how to describe their disability.

Read the Inclusive language guidance on GOV.UK

Meeting and communicating with disabled people

Take a look at guidelines about meeting and working with disabled people and how to ensure that everyone is treated with courtesy, dignity and respect: