Tips to communicating effectively
To enable event participants to have the best experience, organisers need to use inclusive and respectful language in all communications.
Understand everyone is an individual
People have different access needs. Some ways to communicate inclusively include:
- addressing people directly (rather than deferring to a friend or carer)
- listening carefully
- always facing a person who has low hearing or is deaf so they can read your lips
- always identifying yourself by name to a person with low vision or who is blind
- asking people if they need any help
- using uncomplicated language.
Consider culture and language
People can have multifaceted access needs, which may include culture and language. Consider that additional communication supports may be needed.
Seek advice from people with disability on how best to communicate
Language is constantly changing, and some people use communication devices, so it is important to be informed about how best to communicate respectfully.
In general, use ‘person first’ language
- ‘person with disability’, ‘person living with disability’, ‘person with lived experience’ are acceptable. Not ‘disabled person’ or ‘differently abled person’
- ‘person who is Deaf’ or ‘a person who is hard of hearing’. Not ‘hearing-impaired’
- ‘person who is blind’ or ‘a person with low vision’. Not ‘vision-impaired’
- ‘person without disability’, not ‘able-bodied’ or ‘non-disabled’
- ‘wheelchair user’, not ‘wheelchair bound’ or ‘confined to a wheelchair’.
Language is personal and it is important to ask the person how they want to be referred to. Some people with autism, for example, prefer identity-first language. For example, ‘Sarah is autistic’, rather than the more broadly accepted ‘Sarah has autism’.
Resources on use of language
- Language Guide (Australian Federation of Disability Organisations)
- Inclusive language (Australian Network on Disability)
- SA Government ‘Report It Right’ Media Guidelines (Inclusive SA)
Focus on accessibility rather than disability
Accessibility includes others with access requirements such as children, carers and older people. Use ‘accessible parking’ rather than ‘disabled parking’.
Don’t assume all disabilities are visible
There are many disabilities (including psychosocial, chronic fatigue syndrome, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and autism) that may not be visible but must considered when planning and communicating information about your event.
Training is essential to ensure staff are well-informed on communicating with people who may have different needs.
Resource on invisible disability
People with disability as objects of inspiration
Don’t use language that implies a person with disability is inspirational because they have lived experience of disability. People with disability are living their lives, implying that they are inspirational simply for doing so is patronising and can cause offence.