Disability Glossary

Karen founded Next Level Inclusion as a social enterprise, so her work matched her values and beliefs, especially around disability.

In the disability community there are often varying meanings of common terms and philosophies, so this page explains some of these terms and why they are so important. It is a work in progress and will be updated as time allows! Let me know below if there’s a specific term you’d like to know about.

Words in bold are defined in a separate entry.

Illustration with 3 people. 2 are women sitting on books, reading. 1 is a man holding a magnifying glass. Text: Translation Glossary.
Accessibility, Accessible

Most people understand that accessibility applies to buildings, buses, and other places disabled people need to go. We often see ramps and wide doorways for this purpose. Easy Read and Easy English, AUSLAN and captioning are becoming more popular for accessible communication.

For Next Level Inclusion accessibility is much broader, looking at all the potential barriers that people with disability face. For example, for a full day workshop we could look at your booking process, venue, refreshments, audio and visual strategies, all the way down to ensuring attendees are perfume free and speakers avoid clinking jewellery or loud prints.

Some accessibility is considered global, or the minimum required, but others will depends on who your audience is.

Disabled, Person with Disability or Disabilities – Which should I use?

You’ll notice that Karen refers to herself as disabled, her children as autistic but also uses the terms people with disability, or people with disabilities interchangeably.

Karen uses the term disabled in recognition that disability-related barriers are caused by society not being accessible. This is also known as the Social Model of Disability. If we remove the barriers for many disabled people they will be able to participate and be included more easily. Describing oneself as disabled can also be seen as ‘disability pride’.

The terms people with disability or disabilities are widely used by and accepted by the disability sector and community. This is mainly because of a huge push to do so in the 1980’s and 90’s. It’s called ‘person first’ language, and was used to move the focus away from the disability and encourage people to see the person. Prior to that push, people were often spoken about as ‘a Downsie’ (someone with Down syndrome), ‘a cripple’ or ‘the handicapped’.

When Next Level Inclusion works with you we will use the phrase you prefer.

Easy Read

Easy English

Inclusion, Inclusive

When everyone is abled to take part in something, this is being inclusive and called inclusion. Inclusion requires accessibility, flexibility and commitment to enable everyone to participate.

Not everyone might want to join in, or they might not be able to join in exactly the same way, but they should have the opportunity to have the same experiences as people without disabilities.

Social Model of Disability

This model sees disability as the result of the barriers society and the environment create. This is in opposition to the previous ‘medical’ model, where disability is seen as something wrong, that must be fixed.

For example:

  • The medical model would insist that autistic people keep eye contact with others, and resist ‘stimming’ – sometimes called active listening in schools.
  • The social model would say that for some people this is not possible, even close to torture, and that autistic people should be able to look where they feel comfortable and stim when needed. This is less of a sensory drain and means they will be able to participate more fully.
  • The medical model would mean that many buildings would not be accessible to people in wheelchairs, so they should find alternate services and businesses who are accessible.
  • The social model recognises that installing ramps, lifts and accessible bathrooms means that barriers are removed so disabled people can use those services and businesses. It also recognises that these strategies will allow other people to access these places – such as the elderly and mothers with prams.

Removing as many barriers as possible means that people with disability are included more, able to participate more, and feel equal to other members of the community.

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