Party culture

Describing disabled people

The social model of disability says that disability is caused by the barriers which arise because society fails to take account of people’s impairments. A disabled person’s impairment might be physical, mental or neurodiverse (e.g. autism spectrum, dyspraxia, dyslexia etc). The social model states that ways in which society operates is the problem for disabled people and the solution is to adjust society. Once barriers are removed, even if a person has an impairment, they don’t experience disability. For this reason, you should always talk about and refer to disabled people rather than ‘people with disabilities’.

It’s important to note that not everybody who experiences disabling barriers will describe themselves using the social model. They might say “I have a disability” or not identify as disabled at all. Whilst it is fine to respect how an individual might want to identify themselves, when discussing issues affecting disabled people you need to use language which recognises that society disables people, not their impairment. You should also never use offensive words like handicapped, differently abled, retarded or invalid.

For an explanation of more terms relating to disabled people please see our glossary.

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