People with disability are often stereotyped and considered “the others” in plans, policies and products. This means we haven’t found the right terminology to cover this diverse group. So we have gradually invented words and phrases as we go. Some terms are OK such as universal access. Others are demeaning or patronising, for example, “differently abled”. Making something accessible also has many variations. It could be a building complying to government regulations. Or it could be something designed with the broadest range of potential users in mind. But saying universal access or something is fully accessible is vague.
Carrie-Ann Lightley discusses this issue in a blog post. When a website or brochure says “fully accessible” – fully accessible to whom? “Wheelchair Friendly” doesn’t help either. As Carrie-Ann says, “you just really like wheelchairs?” In the context of travel and tourism she repeats the message about information. That is, information that helps everyone decide if they can visit and get around in a place. Sweeping statements and wheelchair icons don’t cut it. Similarly, websites that ask people to call to confirm their needs. Information is power.
Carrie-Ann also has a useful short video on her Twitter page.
From the editor – other terms to avoid are “all abilities” or any word where “ability” has been captured in a way to make it sound inclusive. It doesn’t. Special words are still special and segregating and label the group you are thinking of as separate.