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The political idea of creating a world that imagines ways to figure out  harm and conflict beyond punishing each other and/ or putting people into prison. It is not just about getting rid of prisons and policing, but the creating new ways of dealing with accountability, building communities and institutions that are not tied to the systems of violence, domination, racial capitalism and disposability that we see in our world today. 


The intentional or unintentional oppression of Disabled people, or those perceived as Disabled, and/or people who fall outside of the accepted definitions of normal.

The discrimination of and social prejudice against people who are perceived to be disabled, based on the belief that nondisabled people are superior; rooted in the assumption that disabled people require “fixing” and that people by are defined by their disability(ies). Ableism can be unintentional, and can be found in everything from language choices (such as phrases like “falls on deaf ears”) to entire systems (policies, education, agencies, even entire industries).

Access and Functional Needs 

Describes the situations when a person may need assistance to take action or participate in activities that would benefit them. An access and functional need may be temporary or permanent and is not related to a person having a diagnosis or other evaluation.

Examples of things that may contribute to an access and functional need include if a person has limited ability communicating in English, limited access to transportation or financial resources, physical or health limitations, the way an environment is set up, a person’s age or a person’s disability needs.

Access Barrier 

A condition or obstacle that prevents individuals with disabilities from using or accessing knowledge and resources as effectively as individuals without disabilities; can be attitudinal, organizational or systemic, architectural or physical, information or communications, or technology.

Access Clash 

When two or more people’s access needs clash with each other, creating potential friction. For example, one person may need silence to work effectively whereas another may need the radio on.


The practice of making information, activities, and/or environments sensible, meaningful, and usable for as many people as possible, and specifically people with disabilities.


An alteration of environment, format, or equipment that allows an individual with a disability to gain access to content and/or complete assigned tasks.

Reasonable accommodations/ modifications: refers to the legal requirement for an employer or school to make changes to a process or environment that allow a qualified person with a disability to do the essential tasks of the job or class. An accommodation is considered “reasonable” if it does not create financial problems for the employer or school when all of the employer or school’s resources are considered.

Your employer is responsible for paying for the cost of the adjustment(s). The Government’s Access to Work scheme may be able to contribute towards the cost of adjustments you need at work. Find out more information here:

A reasonable modification is a change or exception to a policy, practice, or procedure that allows people with disabilities to have equal access to programs, services and activities.


Aesthetics refers to our idea of what is beautiful, interesting, and fulfilling. These measurements of worth are often informed by dominant modes of power and defined by those that benefit from systems of global oppression. In this way our aesthetics are enmeshed with oppressive categorisation of what is deemed desirable and undesirable. 


Activism is the creative process of making change in society and politics. Activism is led by groups of people who need change in order to create better living conditions for themselves and others. There are many kinds of activism, including rallies and protests, research and policy change work, writing and art-making.

Adaptive Strategies 

Techniques that people with disabilities use to improve interaction with the web; for example, increasing the font size in a common browser. Includes techniques with mainstream browsers or with assistive technologies.

Alternative Format 

document in large print, Braille, printed on coloured paper, a paper copy of an electronic resource or vice versa, or an electronic resource in an alternative way, that provides equal access to information for people who are blind or low-vision.

Assistive Technology 

Any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities; examples are screen readers, screen magnifiers, voice recognition software, and selection switches.

Audio Description 

Also referred to as “description” or “visual description”, the verbal depiction of key visual elements in media and live productions; provides information on visual content that is considered essential to understanding the program or media.


Audism refers to discrimination against D/deaf or hard of hearing people.


The ability and right of a person to exercise control over their own body free of state control.



State funds for eligible people with disabilities to cover living expenses.  Benefits may also include healthcare and housing.


Prejudice in favour of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be oppressive. Bias can be conscious or unconscious, which means you may or may not know that you have a bias.

British Sign Language (BSL)

The most commonly used sign language in the United Kingdom. It is often referred to by the acronym BSL.


Cis/ Cis-gender 

Cis and cisgender are words that people use to describe themselves for example, as a man or woman. These gender markers are used because that person feels that their label matches the sex given to them at birth: ‘it’s a girl!’. The first part ‘cis-’ means “on this side of,” not being trans. Cisgender is the word for people who are not trans, the word is used to mark the privilege granted to someone based on experiencing life as a cisgender/non-trans person.


Colonialism is an intentional process by which a political power from one territory exerts control over a different territory. It involves unequal power relations and includes policies and/or practices of acquiring full or partial political control over other people or territory, occupying the territory with settlers, and exploiting it economically. The United Kingdom colonised around 90 territories and still governmentally and economically benefits from the 56 countries in the ‘Common’wealth.  


A term used historically to stigmatise and oppress disabled people. It has been reclaimed by some people disabled people. It should only be used with permission from the community or person who is being referred to, or regarding the theories noted below. There is discussion about whether crip refers only to the physical disability community, or other experiences as well.

Crip Theory 

An academic (sub)field that was first made popular by scholars like Robert McRuer and Carrie Sandahl. Crip theory is a blurring or merging of queer theory and critical disability studies. Crip theory explores how the social pressures and norms around ability intersect with the social pressures and norms around gender/sexuality.

Crip Time 

A concept arising from disabled experience that addresses the ways that disabled/chronically ill and neurodivergent people experience time (and space) differently than able-bodyminded folk. In her essay on Crip Time, Ellen Samuelsquotes her friends Alison Kafer, who says that crip times means: “rather than bend disabled bodies and minds to meet the clock, crip time bends the clock to meet disabled bodies and minds.”

Cultural Safety 

A concept that originated and is primarily used in the healthcare domain. The concept emphasizes the power imbalance inherent in the patient/client-practitioner relationship. A culturally safe environment is spiritually, socially, and emotionally safe, as well as physically safe for people; where there is no assault, challenge, or denial of their identity, of who they are, and what they need.

The term was developed by Maori nurse Irihapeti Ramsden in the context of nursing care provided to Indigenous peoples in New Zealand. The term has since been extended and applied to Indigenous peoples in other countries where service inequalities persist. This concept shifts power and authority to the Indigenous patient receiving care, who is given the ultimate say in whether care provided was culturally safe or not. It centres upon sharing: shared respect, shared meaning, and shared knowledge and experience, of learning together with dignity and attention.



To stop treating something as a criminal offence.


Any condition that impacts the ability of a person to do certain activities or effectively interact with the world around them, socially or materially. Disability may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or a combination of multiple factors; and a disability may be present from birth or acquired during a person’s lifetime.

Recognizing that disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that limit or stop their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with nondisabled people.

Disability Justice Movement 

 A movement developed by disabled Black, indigenous, other people of colour, and queer/trans people, originating in the Sins Invalid community. The focus of disability community work is shifted through the principles of: leadership of the most impacted, intersectionality, anti-capitalist politic, commitment to cross-movement organising, recognizing wholeness, sustainability, commitment to cross-disability solidarity, interdependence, collective access, and collective liberation

Disability Ettiquette 

Polite and appropriate ways to address or interact with people with different disabilities.

Disability Inclusion 

The process of improving the terms on which individuals with disabilities take part in society to the fullest extent they choose.

Disability Justice

A framework for liberation that seeks to end ableism in connection with ending all other forms of oppression.




A style of communication that prioritises plain language: easy-to-read, concise, and clear information. This is particularly helpful for people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Like many other universal design practices, plain language also benefits many non-disabled people to better understand the information provided. 

Emotional Labour

The process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfil the emotional requirements of work. More specifically, workers are expected to regulate their emotions during interactions with superiors and clients. For many Black and Brown as well as disabled  individuals, this includes managing feelings and expressions when encountering incidents of ableism and racism daily.

Equality Act 2010 

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations.


The quality of fairness, taking into account systemic inequalities to ensure everyone in a community has access to the same opportunities and outcomes.

Ethnic Minority 



Global Majority 

People of the Global Majority (or PGM) is a collective term that refers to people who are Black, Asian, of mixed-heritage or indigenous to their (occupied) land. These groups represent approximately 80% of the world’s population. GM avoids the negative connotations of ‘minority’ and the racist labelling of people as ‘other’ which places whiteness as the norm and every other experience as secondary to it. The ‘Global’ aspect of People of the Global Majority, relates to international struggles against Imperialism and promotes global solidarity without erasing important aspects of our respective cultures.



Harm Reduction

A framework for finding safer ways to practice risky behaviors.  It further affirms a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people when they engage in risky behavior.  It is a philosophy that can be applied as a daily practice for everyone, just for high risk situations.  

Healing Justice

A framework that identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene in generational trauma and violence and bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds.


A value system in which people who differ from normative standards of health (rooted in racism, capitalism, ageism, ableism, and transphobia) are subject to systems of punishment and exclusion. Instead of addressing and relieving structural barriers to healing, non-coercive, community-centred health care, healthism enforces systems that blame and harm the individual for experiencing illness and distress.


Refers to social roles, structures, language etc. that reinforce the idea that heterosexuality is the presumed norm and is superior to other sexual orientations.


Inclusive of and addressing the entire body, topic, or problem.


The intertwining of social identities such as gender, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity, which can result in unique experiences, opportunities, and barriers. A theory coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to draw attention to how different systems of oppressive structures and types of discrimination interact and manifest in the lives of marginalized people; for example, a queer black woman may experience oppression on the basis of her sexuality, gender, and race – a unique experience of oppression based on how those identities intersect in her life.


An impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on one’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. To be covered under the Equality Act 2010 in the UK your impairment has to have a long term/ fluctuating effect if it has lasted or is likely to last for more than 12 months.

Informed Decisions 

To make choices that are based on all of the relevant facts and information, provided in formats accessible to the decision-maker.




Mad is a word sometimes used by some of us who have experienced mental distress and/or use the mental health system.

Mad Maps

Wellness documents that we create for ourselves to promote wellness through reminders of our goals, what is important to us, our personal signs of struggle, and our strategies for self-determined well-being.


To treat a justice issue as a medical problem.

Medical Industrial Complex 

The network of corporations which supply health care services and products for a profit and at the expense of promoting care and wellness.* 

*In the UK this would also include the increased privatisation of the National Health Service. 

Medical Model for Disability


The ways in which our current systems of oppression impact people based on more than one factor of their identity; an experience which includes discrimination unique to that intersection of two or more identities. For example, a Black disabled woman faces discrimination for being a woman, being Black, and being disabled, and she also experiences discrimination that is unique to Black disabled women.



Having a brain or mental processing that functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.” It is based on the assumption that there are naturally occurring diversities in how brains function that do not require a “cure.” Neurodiverse refers to the idea that people experience things in many different ways. A person who is neurodiverse may experience different sensations and responses to the world. Autism and autistic ways of thinking are common examples of neurodiversity, though there are many other ways to be neurodiverse.




To treat something or someone as unhealthy or abnormal and in need of being “cured.”


Inaccurate and/or negative beliefs about a group of people. Prejudice can be manifested systemically through lack of access to equal opportunity in jobs, housing, education, etc. and interpersonally through our attitudes and behaviour. 

Prison Industrial Complex

The overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.


Privilege is a word that describes the benefits and advantages that a person receives because their position in society is understood as more important, valuable, or desirable than others. One example of having privilege is being thin. Thin people live in the world without encountering discrimination or exclusion based on their size that fat people experience, and with the feeling that public space was built with them in mind.


In community spaces, especially queer-positive and inclusive spaces, we often use pronouns as a way to share our gender identity with each other. For example, a non-binary person might have “they” as their pronoun (rather than “him” or “her”). Using a person’s correct pronouns is one important way to show respect to that person. Gender pronouns include she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs, and more.

Physically Accessible 

Ensuring that persons with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical/built environment.

Pod Map

A document used to describe the creation of relationships between people who would turn to each other for support around violent, harmful and abusive experiences.


Addressing harm or conflict through punishment. 




Restorative Justice 


Safety Plan

A document that supports and guides someone when they are experiencing abuse, crisis, or harm.


The oppression of and stigma against people who are perceived to be Neurodivergent, and the cultural drive to be seen as sane/rational/mentally normal.

Service Providers 

Individuals and community organisations that provide individualised support to people with disabilities to meet the person’s daily needs and achieve the individual’s goals.

Social Model of Disability 

Refers to systemic social barriers that lead to the exclusion of disabled people from society. This term refers to the restrictions caused by society when it does not give equitable social and structural support according to disabled peoples’ structural needs. The social model of disability contrasts from the medical model of disability, which focuses on the barriers of disability from a medical standpoint. The term “social model of disability” was coined by British sociologist, author, and disability rights activist Mike Oliver.

Stakeholder Groups 

Groups or populations of people who will be impacted by a decision.

Systems of Oppression 

Systems of oppression are discriminatory institutions, structures, norms, to name a few, that are embedded in the fabric of our society. All the “-isms” are forms of oppression. In the context of social justice, oppression is discrimination against a social group that is backed by institutional power. That is to say, the various societal institutions such as culture, government, education, etc. are all complicit in the oppression of marginalized social groups while elevating dominant social groups.


Transformative Justice

A framework for addressing harm that 1) creates new systems of governance and social relations that reduce harm in the first place and 2) relies on processes for addressing harm that attempt to transform the social conditions that gave rise to that harm.






Inclusive Language

This table is from Access Activators: Relaxed Performance consulting document.

General Terms to Avoid/Replace

General Terms to AvoidTerms that are Respectful and Positive
The handicapped
The disabled
People with disabilities
disabled people
People living with a disability
The disability community
Physically Challenged
Intellectually Challenged
A person with a physical disability
A person with an intellectual or developmental disability
Afflicted with… MS 
Suffers from… 
muscular dystrophy
Lupus Sufferer
Stricken with multiple disabilities
Victim of… polio
Invalid (the literal meaning of the word is not valid)
Words like “stricken,” “afflicted,” and “victim,” imply helplessness and sensationalize a person’s disability
Person who has multiple sclerosis
He has muscular dystrophy.
Person with lupus
Person with multiple disabilities
A person who had polio
Someone living with arthritis
Birth Defect
Congenital Defect
Person with a disability from birth: e.g. He is blind from birth.
She has a congenital disability. 
He has had a disability since birth. 
He was born with a disability. 
Person with a congenital disability
Disabled Parking
Handicap Parking
Handicapped bathroom stall, rooms
Disabled seating
Accessible Parking
Accessible Bathroom
Accessible Rooms
Accessible seating
Seating for viewers in wheelchairs
Special needs
Special “travel tours”
Adaptive needs
Accommodations for individuals with disabilities
Tours for people with disabilities
Is non-verbalCommunicates with a device or eyes
A person who does not speak
A person who has a speech disorder
A normal person, healthy
This implies that a person with a disability is not normal, healthy
A person who is able-bodied
A person who does not have a disability
The institutionalized
The infirmed
People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility

Mobility Disabilities

Mobility Disabilities – Terms to AvoidMobility Disabilities – Terms to Use
Confined to a wheelchair (Using a wheelchair or scooter provides independent mobility not confinement)
Girl in a wheelchair
Spastic, Spaz
Wheelchair user; Person who uses a wheelchair or a scooter
Refer to the girl by name
Person who has quadriplegia
She has paraplegia.
Person who has cerebral palsy
Person who uses a mobility aid (e.g., crutches or a leg brace)
Person who walks with a limp
Vertically challenged
Someone of short stature
Little person
Fits or Spells
Person with Epilepsy
Person with a seizure disorder
StuttererPerson who stutters

Visual Disabilities

Visual Disabilities – Terms to AvoidVisual Disabilities – Terms to Use
The blind
The blind writer
The visually impaired
He is visually impaired.
People who are blind
The writer who is blind
People with vision loss
He is partially sighted.
She has low vision.
He has limited vision.
She is visually restricted.
People of varying visual abilities
Many people have varying degrees of vision loss while others are blind

Hearing Disabilities

Hearing Disabilities – Terms to AvoidHearing Disabilities – Terms to Use
Deaf mute
Deaf and dumb
The Deaf
A person who can neither hear nor speak
Person who is deaf
A person who is medically deaf but who does not necessarily identify with the deaf community
Deaf with capital D
People who are medically deaf and identify as part of the Deaf community. Their preferred mode of communication is Sign language.
Manual deaf, Signing deaf – A deaf person whose preferred mode of communication is Sign language
Oral deaf – A deaf person whose preferred mode of communication is verbal and auditory and/or lip-reading, although they can sign
Deafened – A person who becomes deaf, perhaps later in life
Hearing impairedA person who is hard of hearing
A person with hearing loss
A person with partial hearing loss
A person who is partially deaf
The deaf-blind
The deaf-blind woman
People who are deaf and blind
The woman who is deaf-blind

Intellectual or Learning Disabilities

Intellectual or Learning Disabilities – Terms to AvoidIntellectual or Learning Disabilities – Terms to Use
Downs, Mongoloid, MongolismA person with Down Syndrome
Hearing impairedA person who is hard of hearing
A person with hearing loss
A person with partial hearing loss
A person who is partially deaf
Learning disabled
Learning disordered
A person with a learning disability
A person with a cognitive disability
Mentally retarded, Retarded, Retard
Mentally Handicapped, Feeble Minded,
Slow, Imbecile, Moron, Backward, Simple
Person with an intellectual disability
Person with a developmental disability
AutisticPerson with autism
A person with Autism Spectrum Disorder
A person with brain damage
Person in a coma
Person who is comatose
Person who is non-responsive

Psychological or Emotional Disabilities

Psychological or Emotional Disabilities – Terms to AvoidPsychological or Emotional Disabilities – Terms to Use
Mental, Mental patient
Unsound mind
Schizo, Schizophrenic
Psycho, Loonies
Drives me nuts
A person with a mental health illness
A person with a psychiatric disability
A person with a psychosocial disability
A person with a mental health disability
A person with schizophrenia


Ally Awareness Working Definitions – University of California

Critical Disability Studies Collective – University of Minnesota

Curatorial Research Centre Decolonising Glossary

Disability Justice Project UK

Equity Diversity and Inclusion Glossary – University of British Colombia

Practising the Social – University of Guelph

The Abolition and Disability Justice Glossary

World Institute for Disability

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