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HR Legal Update – DWP and ODI publish guidance on words to use and avoid when writing about disability

The Department for Work & Pensions and the Office for Disability Issues have published Guidance entitled, ‘Inclusive language: words to use and avoid when writing about disability’, to be considered when communicating with or about disabled people. Some of the key points are as follows:


– The word ‘disabled’ is a description not a group of people. Use ‘disabled people’ not ‘the disabled’ as the collective term.

– Avoid phrases like ‘suffers from’ which suggests discomfort, constant pain and a sense of hopelessness.

– Common phrases that may associate impairments with negative things should be avoided, for example ‘deaf to our pleas’ or ‘blind drunk’.


The guidance also contains a comprehensive list of words to use and avoid, e.g. (i) don’t use mentally handicapped, mentally defective, retarded, subnormal, but do use with a learning disability (singular) or with learning disabilities (plural); (ii) don’t use an epileptic, diabetic, depressive, and so on, but do use a person with epilepsy, diabetes, depression or someone who has epilepsy, diabetes, depression.


Content Note

The aim is to provide summary information and comment on the subject areas covered. In particular, where employment tribunal and appellate court cases are reported, the information does not set out full details of all the facts, the legal arguments presented by the parties and the judgments made in every aspect of the case. Click on the links provided to access full details. If no link is provided contact us for further information. Employment law is subject to constant change either by statute or by interpretation by the courts. While every care has been taken in compiling this information, SM&B cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Specialist legal advice must be taken on any legal issues that may arise before embarking upon any formal course of action.

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