Tips for inclusive communication

Written by CWD Editor
Last updated Monday January 4 2021

There are over 11 million people living with a disability, long-term health condition or illness in the UK. This guidance aims to support employers with accessible and inclusive communications, marketing and advertisements.

Inclusive communication is an integral part of operating as a disability-friendly employer. For further support and advice about how to become disability-friendly, visit our dedicated guide.

Inclusive language

Careers with Disabilities encourages all employers to consider some of the basic inclusive language guidelines. To promote a diverse working environment, it is important to communicate using inclusive language. This includes understanding which terms to avoid when writing about disabilities.

  • Collective terms

The term “disabled” is descriptive and does not refer to a group of people. The correct collective term is “disabled people” not “the disabled”. It is also important to consider that many people who require extra support or reasonable adjustments in the workplace may not identify as disabled. Instead of automatically referring to “disabled people” in all communications, consider using “disabled people and people with health conditions or long-term illnesses”.

  • Positive not negative

When referring to disabled people, avoid using phrases like “suffers from”, “afflicted by” or “struggles with”. These terms suggest a sense of hopelessness, pain, discomfort or unhappiness.

  • Words to avoid
Avoid Use
The disabled, The handicapped Disabled people
Struggles with, Afflicted by, Victim of Has (name of disability or condition)
Confined to a wheelchair Wheelchair user
Special needs, Mentally handicapped Learning disability
Able-bodied Non-disabled
The blind People with visual impairments, Blind person
Mental patient, Poor mental health, insane Person with a mental health condition

Equal representation

Whether you are a large enterprise, public sector organisation or SME, including disabled people in communications and campaigns is a key part of an organisation’s social responsibility. A positive image of disability helps to ensure equal and realistic representation.

Positive portrayal will help change public attitudes, challenge common misconceptions or stigmas and raise the expectations of what disabled people can achieve. Disabled people experience inequality in healthcare, education and employment opportunities; it is well recognised there is a real and urgent need for change. By including disabled people in creative output, marketing campaigns and advertising, your organisation will help shift the concept that disabilities are a misfortune that affect a small minority of the population.

Accessible communication channels

We absorb information every day through a broad range of communication channels, including TV, radio, newspapers and the internet. Disabled people are likely to have a below average level of access to information as certain communications methods may be inaccessible to some disabled people.

One in five people in the UK have a disability, health condition or long-term illness, meaning disabled people make up a significant part of your audience. Using a range of communication channels will help maximise the number of people you can reach.

Accessible communication formats

Some communication formats are inaccessible to people with certain disabilities. To reach all of your audience, you will need to make effective use of alternative formats.

Accessible communications formats for people with specific disabilities include:

  • Visual impairments: audio, audio description, Braille, telephone.
  • Learning disabilities and literacy difficulties: audio, audio description, easy read, easy access, subtitles
  • Hearing impairments: British Sign Language (BSL), subtitling, textphone, SMS
  • Coordination difficulties: large print, audio, audio description, telephone

For further information on how to support an employee with a specific disability at work, visit our Disability Advice Hub. To learn more about how Careers with Disabilities can support your organisation in reaching your disability inclusion goals, get in contact with our team today.

Last Updated: Monday January 4 2021

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