There are many different definitions of disability, some of which vary by geography and local legislation (as with the UK’s Equality Act, Canada’s Disability Reference Guide, and the USA’s Americans with Disabilities Act). No universal definitions exist, but one commonly used definition comes from the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states that “disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.
Some additional perspectives and resources on defining disability include:
Disabled World, Disabilities: Definition, Types and Models of Disability and The WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health both look at classifying different types of disabilities and how they effect disabled people.
Self Defined by Tatiana Mac : a modern dictionary of words and how they define us, which seeks to provide more inclusive, holistic, and fluid definitions to reflect the diverse perspectives of the modern world.
This Scholarly Kitchen article was drafted by the Toolkit for Disability Equity in Scholarly Communications Steering Committee as a short guide for organizations that aren’t sure where to start in making their workplace more disability inclusive.
As with legal considerations, preferred terms and language can vary both geographically (for example, identity-first language is used by the British government, while person-first language is used by the US and Canadian governments) and by personal inclination. Some guides to inclusive language around disabilities and other intersections of diversity include:
The C4DISC Guidelines on Inclusive Language and Images in Scholarly Communications covers disability and ableist language, terms that are preferred and terms to avoid, and content framing.
The ACS Inclusivity Style Guide covers person-first and identity-first language, capitalization of health conditions, euphemisms related to disability, and a number of other disability-related topics.
The Web Accessibility Initiative develops accessibility standards for the web and support materials to help organizations make their websites and digital resources more accessible to people with disabilities.
WAI also hosts a number of videos that demonstrate how people with disabilities use the web.
The WCAG 3.0 Draft of Functional Needs divides the world of accessibility requirements into users’ needs rather than based on specific disabilities.
The Daisy Consortium is is an international non-profit membership organization that works with 150+ partners around the world to improve access to reading for people with print disabilities.
Inclusive Publishing is a DAISY Consortium initiative that collects resources, information, and news on the best approaches to producing, delivering, and reading accessible content - particularly for EPUB books.
The section on Accessibility offers general guidance on accessibility considerations for text, images and charts, tables, and audio and video content, as well as a list of useful references.
We have done our best to make sure that the information in this toolkit is accurate and up to date. That said, the toolkit has some limitations.
We are not lawyers. We are a community of publishing professionals, and this toolkit cannot take the place of legal advice. Laws, regulations, obligations, policies, and rights vary from country to country and within countries, and this toolkit cannot cover every possible variation. If you would like us to add information about disability-related laws in your country, please use our contact form.
Terminology: Different people prefer different terms (e.g., person-first or identity-first) to describe themselves, and the resources in this toolkit use a variety of terms as a result. When in doubt about how to refer to someone, ask them!
We are not responsible for third-party content. If you have a comment about something we’ve linked to, or need to report a broken link, please use our content form.