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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.
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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.

  7. #7
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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).
    Birnam wood is come to Dunsinane

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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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  9. #9
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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.

  10. #10
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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.

  11. #11
    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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  12. #12
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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"

  14. #14
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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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    SitePoint Enthusiast scottyc's Avatar
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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

  16. #16
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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 09:22.

  17. #17
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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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  18. #18
    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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  19. #19
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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

  20. #20
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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".

  21. #21
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    I know a couple of friends with a disability of some sort and they tend to laugh at the poltically correct lengths some people go to to avoid saying "people with disabilities". One guy in particular, wheelchair bound for as long as I've known him, would probably burst out laughing if shown a site with the of the sort names ectoplasm mentions. When I was temporarily disabled with a broken back, I wasn't the least bit sensitive about it.

    As for "internet specific disabilities", why not just say what you mean - "people with problems using the web" - as it gets round your personal worries about using the D word. It's how most people who have such a problem would describe themselves, I'd guess. It's certainly a lot clearer than your People with (insert TLA) ! And it covers all possible things. Who is going to object to that phrase?

    AND it doesn't classify someone into a special named group, which does upset people. (For example, my friends above are not Disabled Pilots, they are pilots.)

    But if your site is truely accessibly, why do you have to mention it at all?

  23. #23
    SitePoint Enthusiast Kattaryna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr John View Post
    "people with problems using the web" -
    Oh no, this one opens a whole new can of worms. My oldest daughter could fall into this category but she has no physical reason for having "problems using the web" and she has had access to the web since 1997. (She really has no excuses for being web illiterate)

    I think everyone here knows at least 1 or 2 (hundred) people in this category.

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    SitePoint Enthusiast Kattaryna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr John View Post
    But if your site is truely accessibly, why do you have to mention it at all?
    I agree.

    Maybe you could just use accessibility words in you your key words. Build it into the background so search engines would see them not visitors.

    Maybe I'm off-base, please, tell me if I am. I'm really just a newbie to SEO

  25. #25
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy Stormrider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kattaryna View Post
    Oh no, this one opens a whole new can of worms. My oldest daughter could fall into this category but she has no physical reason for having "problems using the web" and she has had access to the web since 1997.
    In that case, it is a good description. Accessibility isn't just about catering for people with disabilities & cognitive problems, it is about making the web accessible to everyone, including people like your daughter. I fail to see why catering for internet-illiterate people and including them in any talk about accessibility on your site is a bad thing.


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