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  1. #1
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    Question What name do you give to disabled people on the web?

    Ive been struggling with the literature on my website, trying to think how to best word how the accessibility features work and who they are designed for.

    I know many disabled people are sensitive about being called disabled (and other things). Especially if their disability is quite a new thing.

    People who are Internet Disabled, are different to people who are disabled otherwise. For example, someone who cant use their legs, could use the internet no differently to most, but someone who is blind for instance obviously has more difficulty on the internet.

    Is there a polite non-offensive term that refers to people who have internet specific disabilities?


    tesco.com say:
    We have aimed to create sites that are available to everyone including those with sight, audio and motor impairment restrictions.
    still not a single word though, maybe we need to invent one lol.

    here's some I have thought of, but a Non-Acronym woule be better:
    People with SAMIR (Sight, Audio and Motor Imparement Restrictions)?
    People with IRD (Internet Restricting Disabilities)?
    People with CRD (Computer Restricting Disabilities)?

  2. #2
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    why talk about it at all? for example, do you mention that your site is unfriendly to people that are english-disabled? i bet not

    make your site accessible, yes, but don't make such a big deal about it

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    Talking

    I think it is good to mention it, it gives a good impression to visitors who read it, and helps spread the word to people who buy websites, that they should be thinking about accessibility.

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    Generally (at least as far as I can tell from reading UK-based disability sites), the term 'disabled' is fine.

    If it's any help, I've heard the term "internet disabled" or "computer disabled" used before. And for that matter, I've heard disabled people refer to non-disabled people as TABs (temporarily able bodied - a reference to the fact that even if nothing else does, age will eventually slow us all down)

    I'd be careful about getting into the realm of over-flowery language though, because then you're only a small step away from calling people "special" and "brave" which would really annoy them.

    You could change the emphasis though: just say that you intend that your site will be accessible and usable by everyone... r937 has a point in that (to my mind at least) accessibility isn't something to boast about, it's something that should be able to be (even if we can't, yet) taken for granted.
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    If I need to refer to it at all, I normally use phrases like 'people with disabilities', 'users who are blind', etc. I rarely say 'blind users' or 'visually impaired people'.

    The reason is fundamentally how I think about things. A user is a person first and foremost, and some of them happen to have a disability. I don't think in terms of 'disabled entities' who, by the way, also happen to be people.

    No matter what you do, you're likely to offend someone, though.
    Birnam wood is come to Dunsinane

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    Talking

    Some people reading this might think all this is a bit over PC, but I know for a fact that some people are very very sensitive about temonoligy used to describe their disability especially if they are new to the disability. My uncle fell off a ladder and ended up in a wheel chair, at first he was very sensitive to being called disabled etc, but as time has gone on he has got used to it a bit more, and isn't quite as sensitive about it.

    Ive while doing reseach I have also found that people who are disabled is the correct term in general. terms such as 'the disabled' 'disabled people' etc tend to be offensive.

    But ive also come across the term people who are 'less abled', I think that could have a 50 50 response, because some people would see it as you saying that they are less of a person than someone else, and some may see it as rather than disabled which could be interpreted as not abled instead it interpreted as less abled but still abled, if that makes sense.

    Maybe I should use an acronym with an * by it, then define the phrase at the bottom of the page. Reason being that saying "people who have a visual, motor or audio imparement" is quite a mouth full.

    I think its important not to patronise aswell. If I had a disability, I wouldnt want to be called 'special' because its just a less rude way of saying wierd. I wouldnt want to be pittied, but I would like people to make some considerations for my needs, I think there can be a thin line between the two. I think the Key between the two could be in seperating the disability from the person, so you would say something like:
    this website has been designed to be compatible with speech synthesisers. Speech synthesisers are often used by people who are blind or visually impaired to read the content of a website.
    as apose to:
    This website has been designed to be accessible for blind people who use special software to access the page content.
    Although this second one may not offend many people, I think it would offend a few more than the first. but like it has been said, no matter what is written its bound to offend someone somewhere.


    I love that term from JackP, TABs (Temorally Able Bodied), Instead of the term saying 'people who are disabled are no less of a person than people who are abled'. It says 'people who are abled are no more of a person than people who are dis-abled'.
    saying your no less of a person implys that some people think you are, if that makes sense.
    Maybe its just me, but I think thats a really effecive term. I dont think i can use it though unfortunately, because as much as I like it, and as true as it is, many people dont like being told that they will one day be disabled.

    thankyou for all the comments, keep them coming please, its really interesting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ro0bear View Post
    Ive while doing reseach I have also found that people who are disabled is the correct term in general. terms such as 'the disabled' 'disabled people' etc tend to be offensive.
    Such expression focus on the disability instead of the humanity. A disability shouldn't define who a person is.

    Quote Originally Posted by ro0bear View Post
    But ive also come across the term people who are 'less abled'
    A disability often means that there are some things you simply cannot do. At all. Like seeing, for instance. If I need to make the distinction between that and a person who is still capable of the action, although not to the same degree as the population average, I'd use the term 'impairment'.

    In my native language, Swedish, we differentiate between funktionshinder (inability to perform a certain function – disability) and funktionsnedsättning (a reduced ability to perform a certain function – impairment).
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    People-first language

    Quote Originally Posted by AutisticCuckoo View Post
    Such expression focus on the disability instead of the humanity. A disability shouldn't define who a person is.
    Exactly. AutisticCuckoo has it right, in the above-quoted post and a subsequent one. I work in vocational rehabilitation, and all our clients are people with disabilities. This issue is called "people-first language," and it is pretty well accepted among disability advocacy groups although some aspects of it do change from time to time.

    It's good to emphasize that your site is functional for people who use assistive technologies like screen readers and text-only browsers, and that you've taken the extra care to consider color contrast and font-resizing options for people with vision impairments. You don't have to specifically refer to people with disabilities to do that.

    Also, I think it's a good idea to use a validation tool like Cynthia Says, and to display the appropriate icon denoting your level of compliance (A, AA or AAA) with the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative. Just as you validate for HTML or XHTML and for CSS (you do, don'tcha?).

    Some very good accessibility design tips can be found at:
    http://rnib.org.uk/ (look for the Web Access Centre)
    and
    http://www.afb.org/ (look for the Web Accessibility section)

    We like to talk more about a person's specific functional limitations, and we avoid labeling people as "disabled." It's not so much a matter of being PC as being more precise. Think about blindness: there are many people who are legally blind who have some vision -- maybe significant vision, but very limited peripheral vision. So they have ability, but it is impaired. Disability is actually a broad spectrum of relative ability, so to label someone as "disabled" when they are "differently abled" can be taken very easily as an insult. Think about that for a second. It could be any one of us who comes away from a car accident or an illness with some kind of label slapped on us.

    Also -- somewhat off-topic -- someone in this thread (with good intentions) used the term "wheelchair-bound." But consider this: A person in a wheelchair relies on that wheelchair as his or her primary transportation, and some people in wheelchairs play basketball and run marathons. Many people in wheelchairs feel that they are not "bound" to that wheelchair, but liberated by it! It's all in your perception.

    So it is a bit complicated, and people can be offended, and the original question is a very good one that shows a lot of compassion and integrity.

    What we call "disability" is absolutely inevitable if you simply live long enough, so it shouldn't be so hard to imagine what we would prefer if we found ourselves unable to see or use a keyboard, for example. But many of us think we're immune or immortal until proved otherwise. Trust me, we're not.

  9. #9
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    It might sound a bit obvious - but instead of asking a bunch of webdesigners with an interest in disability, why not instead look to get in touch with local or national disability groups to discuss with them?

    After all, I'd like to think we've moved on from the "does he take sugar?" days, so why not ask disability groups which terms they prefer?

    I have some concern that many of the terms used are imposed by well-meaning people and don't actually reflect the thoughts and feelings of those who are disabled.

    Here's a couple of quotes from the BBC's disability web site (Ouch!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Macrae
    When people with learning difficulties object to the usage of terms like thick, backward or retarded, I'm right there fuming with them. The same goes for mad, crippled, wheelchair-bound and handicapped.

    But what equally gets my goat are the roundabout methods people employ to avoid plain, ordinary words. In Canada, for example, blind kids are now referred to as 'children with visual exceptionalities'
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Shakespeare
    I would like to see a 'post social model' disability politics, where we could be more pluralist, and worry less about terminology or 'disability correctness'.
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    Sounds like you have a point JackP. I think I will get in contact with some disability groups, and I will post my findings here when encase anyone in the future is wondering the same thing.

  11. #11
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    Why the use of Language is Important is worth reading. It mostly applies to the UK, though. People in other countries will likely have their own terminology preferences.

  12. #12
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    I have just seen a book where they suggest that currently 25% of people on the web have a disability of some sort and this is expected to increase dramatically as the population ages. So the best terms to use for them when they visit your site are probably one of 'user', 'visitor', 'guest'.
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    I have not meant a disabled person who objected to the label 'disabled'.
    You can try using 'Impaired', which is a milder form for 'disabled'.

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    Very nice post...useful discussion...

    I agree that... "People who are Internet Disabled, are different to people who are disabled otherwise"

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    I agree with JackP that asking a census group of the target market would be a good idea.

    However, there are no complaints when referring to 'Disabled Blue Badges' or 'Disabled Parking Spaces' are there?

    But that said - why mention it at all?!
    Just make your site accessible and if it is browsed by a person with a disability then they will be catered for.


    ....and now my flipant reply to: What name do you give to disabled people on the web?

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    From the latest article at webcredible

    7. Don't worry too much about accessibility statements

    Many websites attempting to offer great accessibility create lengthy and what they believe to be helpful accessibility statements. Typically these pages contain information on the accessibility features of the website, how to resize the text etc.

    In reality, disabled web users very rarely look at accessibility statements. As web users we don't tend to consult 'help' guides on any site - rather, we stumble along attempting to complete our goals. Although there's nothing wrong with making an accessibility statement page there's no need to spend too much time on it as it won't really be used.


    Hope this is of use.

    Scott

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    Question Names ...

    I am a disabled person and I agree with this:

    Quote Originally Posted by spikeZ View Post

    But that said - why mention it at all?!
    Just make your site accessible and if it is browsed by a person with a disability then they will be catered for.
    I never saw the need to mention any disability at all. Why can't we just say, "This website is designed to be accessible for all. If you have problems using it, Contact me."
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    Quote Originally Posted by chyann View Post
    I am a disabled person and I agree with this:

    I never saw the need to mention any disability at all. Why can't we just say, "This website is designed to be accessible for all. If you have problems using it, Contact me."
    Good advice. Far better to do it than to talk about it, anyway.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by chyann View Post
    I am a disabled person and I agree with this:



    I never saw the need to mention any disability at all. Why can't we just say, "This website is designed to be accessible for all. If you have problems using it, Contact me."
    I am also of this position. Why not use sensible descriptions to explain each functionality without relating to the disability its aimed at.

    "This site has been designed to be accessible to all our users. Extra functionality includes variable type size, high contrast views and extra meta information for multimedia content.

    If you have any questions or suggestions on improving our site's accessibility, please contact me (link to email or form)"

    There is also room to add icons or indicators showing where each of these tools are located in the site and how they operate.
    I'd also be inclined to mention other tools such as Access keys, tab indexes or shortcut keys that are available to the user.

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    Its interesting that in the post sent my electoplasm, that website says that you should say disabled people instead of people who are disabled. Ive read the exact oposite else where lol. I will be talking to some disbled groups soon, to find out how they like to be refered to and will get back to you all.
    fellgal could you tell me what book was that you were reading please? It sounds interesting.
    Last edited by ro0bear; Jan 15, 2008 at 08:22.

  21. #21
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    As I understand it (and I'm not an expert on it) the reason for saying "people with disabilities" rather than "disabled people" is that the "people with disabilities" one is more in keeping with the social model of disability - that the people are not inherently 'disabled' (which the second one would imply) but that they are disabled by society/ the barriers society places in their way.

    However, that also depends on the disability - for example I've heard someone in chronic pain saying that it's the pain that disables them and it's got _bleep_ all to do with society.

    Also, I think that many "people with disabilities" would reserve their distaste for people using more offensive terms, rather than saying "disabled people" instead of "people with disabilities".

    Off Topic:

    From ectoplasms link before it says the term 'invalid' should be used as this means 'not valid'. Fair enough, I understand the term is seen as offensive, so I wouldn't use it, but if that's the reason, then surely 'disabled' means 'not abled' and implies 'switched off'. Can anyone explain why one term is ok and the other one not?
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  22. #22
    One website at a time mmj's Avatar
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    Yeah, the website I am working on uses the term 'students with disabilities'. I was told it was more correct than the term 'disabled students', which is what I would have gone with. I can see the logic of 'students with disabilities' over 'disabled students' though and was happy enough to change it.

    I would only even use the terms if you offer services that specifically cater to people with disabilities. Otherwise, if your aim is just to cater to all people including those with disabilities, but you have no services specifically for people with disabilities, then I would just concentrate on making it as accessible as possible.
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  23. #23
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy Stormrider's Avatar
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    I think you can be overly-PC with this, and a lot of people really don't care about using one phrase over another when they mean the same thing essentially. At the same time, it's important to respect the people involved and there are phrases that are better than others.

    I would say things like 'some users have difficulty using xxx' or 'users that have problems viewing yyy' etc. No need to say 'blind people' or even 'people who are blind'.

    There are varying degrees of disability, you can't just lump everyone who is legally blind (vision worse than 20:200) into one group and everyone else into another. Someone with 20:190 vision is going to have extreme difficulties, but they aren't blind. Define people by what they can and can't do (people who have difficulty viewing/performing/using/reading whatever) rather than something society has labelled them as. I wouldn't even mention 'disabled/disabilities' or 'blind/people who are blind' etc. It's not as clear cut as that.

    That's my view, anyway :P

  24. #24
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    I personally prefer the term "disabled person/people". It's also the one used by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and in the DDA, for example.

    I'm an amputee and I visit several sites and blogs with names like Cripworld and The Gimp Parade. No doubt some people would take umbrage at terms like "cripple" and "gimp". I really couldn't care less. The only term I dislike is "the disabled" because it suggests disabled people are a homogeneous group, separate from the rest of society.

    I don't think too many people would be offended by the terms "disabled people" or "people with disabilities".

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