People with Disabilities

Group of people around a table, one person is in a wheelchair

As a truly inclusive community, we support and empower people with a wide range of physical, mental, and social attributes. People with different abilities and disabilities all deserve to be listened to, treated as an equal, and not defined purely by a single visible or non-visible factor.


There are two separate elements to accessibility in the written or spoken word: there is word choice (what we say), and there is format and structure (how we say it and how we put the information across).

Respectful language and tone

Showing respect and inclusion for people with different disabilities and attributes (including those that are not immediately visible) starts with language that is sensitive to diverse ability levels and ensures the words we use cannot be used to belittle people, even unintentionally.


In terms of word choice, this often means using people-first language: recognizing that a disability does not totally define someone and putting their status as a person before their disability or any other single characteristic. (e.g. try ‘people with disabilities’ instead of ‘the disabled’)


It’s also important to avoid language that turns someone into a victim (e.g. ‘lives with’, ‘is afflicted by’, is ‘wheelchair-bound’).


Remember: respectful language doesn’t only apply when a person with a disability is directly involved, it applies in all cases. Terms related to physical and mental disabilities, either specific (“I’m OCD about this”, “he’s acting bipolar”) or generic (“that’s crazy talk”, “this is insane”), can be offensive, inaccurate, and contribute to stigmatization.

Plain language is good for everyone

Wherever we can, we should write in plain language. This doesn’t necessarily, or exclusively, mean using short words. It means thinking about your intended audience and making your wording, structure, and design clear enough so they can always find and understand what they need.


Common elements of plain written language include:

  • Shortening sentences, using multiple sentences where necessary rather than long compound sentences and paragraphs (one thought per sentence is a good guiding principle).
  • Sticking to commonly used words – avoid scientific language wherever possible.
  • Writing in a personal and engaging tone, resisting the urge to sound too formal
  • Not using a longer word where a shorter one will impart the same meaning. (e.g., avoid ‘attempt’, ‘adjacent’, ‘purchase’, ‘whilst’; use ‘try’, ‘next to’, ‘buy’, ‘while’)
  • Using the active voice rather than the passive
  • Adding real-world examples to illustrate points accessibly
  • Using infographics and other visual elements to break up text and illustrate points


The great thing about plain language is that it benefits everyone, regardless of their level of education or cognitive ability.





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