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Disability and Equality
Awareness Training

- Introduction
- Course Aims and Learning Outcomes
- Inclusive Terminology and Language 

     - Terms which are generally acceptable                         
     - Terms liable to cause offence                                        
     - Disability Etiquette



Disability and Equality Awareness Training is a tool for enabling companies, employees and others to understand the needs of those with disabilities. A disability and equality training session can be tailored to your specific needs providing awareness on disability and equality issues, discrimination, accessibility, visual impairments and hearing impairments in addition to the not so obvious issues i.e. dyslexia - also general awareness on issues of older people and parents with young children. Generally, people and organisations are not aware of disability equality issues, they do not have an understanding of general disability needs or the concept of inclusive awareness. The course will also introduce the need for individual respect due to disabled people.

Please send an e-mail to or please press the Contact Details link on the left of this text and this will provide you with the opportunity to communicate via e-mail.

We look forward to hearing from you regarding your disability awareness training needs.

Course Aims and Learning Outcomes

Noted below are the general aims and outcomes of a Disability and Equality Awareness Training Course. The course can be tailored to the specific needs of the organisation and time available to provide the training.


  • Introduce the historical background behind current approaches and attitudes to disability and Equality.


  • Outline the social model of disability as the preferred model of support for disabled people.


  • Describe definitions, classification systems and terminology in relation to disability (as shown below under terminology).


  • Identify sources of statistical data on disabled people in the UK.

Learning Outcomes


  • Identify media stereotypes in the portrayal of disability.


  • Recognise the difference between the social and medical models of disability and how they might be implemented on an organisational basis.


  • Use the correct terminology when communicating about disabled people.


      Identify sources of help for disabled people.


Inclusive Terminology and Language

Many terms used by the general public are not acceptable to people with a disability. Even among people with a disability, there is not always agreement regarding what is acceptable.  Some of the more commonly used terms - both acceptable and unacceptable - are described below.  In the unacceptable case, the preferred alternative is underlined.  Please note that terminology changes frequently so care needs to be taken in order not to cause offence. If you find that you can add to this list or find one of the terms used not acceptable - please advise. Acceptable language is constantly evolving and we welcome any additions or alterations that are considered appropriate.


Terms which are generally acceptable:

Disabled People - Refers to people experiencing disability in any way.

Hidden Disability - Refers to an impairment which is not obvious at all times e.g. epilepsy, diabetes.

Learning Difficulties - Sometimes used in the same way as learning disabilities; but there can be some confusion as the term learning difficulties is used in some quarters to describe anyone who - for whatever reason - learns slowly or with difficulty.

Dyslexia - Dyslexia is often grouped under the same heading as learning difficulties but this can cause offence.  Most people with dyslexia prefer the term to be used separately.

Learning Disabilities - Refers to an impairment of a function of the brain; with mental disability and learning difficulty, it is commonly used as a preferred alternative to mental handicap.

Mental Health Needs/Problems - Refers to mental illness; there is some concern that the use of the word "problem" can result in the individual being seen as the problem.

Non-disabled Persons     - Often preferred to able-bodied, as it is neutral and does not claim a monopoly on ability or fitness.

People with a Disability - Used by some as an alternative to disabled people; by others in preference to it, as it is thought to put people first.

Physical Disability - Refers to limitation of a physical function; sometimes used as if synonymous with physical impairment.

Sensory Impairment - Refers to limitation of a sensory function, i.e. hearing, sight, taste, smell, touch; sometimes called sensory disability.

Terms liable to cause offence:

Confined to a wheelchair - This and similar terms, such as wheelchair bound, place excessive emphasis on the wheelchair, to the detriment of the person in the wheelchair.

Use wheelchair user.

Crippled   - Old-fashioned and derogatory.

Use physically impaired or physically disabled.

Deaf and dumb        - Very few hearing-impaired people are physically unable to speak; also the word dumb implies lack of intelligence.

Use deaf without speech or a person with a hearing impairment or a deaf person, or sign language user.

Epileptic, diabetic etc - Refers to condition not person.

Use person with epilepsy, diabetes etc.

The handicapped - Unacceptable for reasons discussed earlier.

Use person with a disability.

Mad - Old-fashioned and imprecise.

Use person with mental health needs / mental distress.

Mentally handicapped - Unacceptable for reasons given earlier.

Use person with a learning difficulty.

Spastic - Spasticity is a precise medical term and should not be used to describe a person.

Use person with cerebral palsy.

Victim of / suffers from - Reinforces stereotype of helplessness, dependency, etc.

Use person with .

Disability Etiquette

Many problems are the result of ignorance, fear or embarrassment on the part of non-disabled people.  Observing the following simple rules should help overcome these:

1.   Always look at the person, not the  disability/wheelchair/escort.

2.    Never make assumptions about what a person's needs are.  Ask the person concerned, not a third party, about his or her needs; and, when asking, try not to be negative, e.g. instead of "can't you do.?" say "do you need help with .?"

3.    When communicating with people who have speech impairments, give them time, concentrate on what is being said and listen to the rhythms of speech.  Don't be afraid to ask for something to be repeated, but try to resist the temptation to finish the sentence for them.

4.    When communicating with people who have a hearing impairment, face them and ask them if they lip read.  If yes, speak slowly and clearly; face them all the time; do not raise your voice; try to avoid covering your mouth and make sure there is no strong light behind you.

5.    When communicating with a person through an interpreter or facilitator - whether for reasons of hearing impairment or other communication need - always address that person, not the interpreter or facilitator.  Do the same when the answer is being relayed to you.

6.    When talking for some time to someone who is using a wheelchair, try to ensure that your eye levels correspond; don't lean on the wheelchair, as this can be annoying for the user and cause it to move.

7.    When guiding a blind person, try not to push or pull the person, ask how he/she wishes to take hold of you; warn of hazards, steps etc as they occur.

Remember: No two people have identical needs.  We are all different and our perceptions of other people vary and are often based on very limited information.  Never make assumptions about disability or the capabilities of individual disabled people.

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