The words in this list were chosen by our Project Advisory Group of disabled young people. This is not a complete list of everything employers should know, but it is a good place to start.
This document will tell you what the words or phrases mean and if or how you should use them.
Person-first language: Person first language puts disability second. For example, ‘person with disability’ or ‘person with an intellectual disability’. Person first language has been preferred and encouraged for a long time, but some people in the disability community are driving a shift towards identity first language.
Identity-first language: Identity first language puts the disability first. Examples of identity first language include: ‘disabled person’ or ‘autistic young person’.
Different people will have different preferences for identity first or person first language. An individual’s preference might change over time, so it is important to always check which language a person prefers.
Do not use phrases such as "special needs" or "differently abled." If you mean disabled, say so. Disabled is not a bad word.
The rest of the terms in this list have been broken down into categories. You will find terms related to accessibility in the workplace, disability organisations it would be useful for employers to follow, legal obligations and policy requirements, and other terms that disabled young people want employers to know.
Access key: An access key tells people what will happen at an event. It helps everyone know about access in and around the venue.Learn more about Access Keys on the YDAS website.
Alternative text: You can read an article from See Write Hear learn more about alt text and image descriptions.
Assistive technology: some disabled people might use technology to help them communicate, work or travel. The government’s Job Access program can tell you more about supporting employees to make sure they have the technology they need.
Audio descriptions: when visual content is explained by narration or a voiceover. For example, if screen sharing online or providing a physical poster or resource, explaining the visual elements is a means of including blind people or those with low vision.
Our video about self-care for disabled young people is audio described.
Auslan interpreters: If you have an employee or coworker who uses Auslan and requires an interpreter, it is important to arrange an interpreter in advance. You can also take Auslan classes through Expression Australia or other organisations.
Camel case: Camel case means when the first letter of every word is capitalized, Like This. Hashtags on social media should be in camel case so that they are visually easier to read, and screen readers can recognize that the hashtag contains several words rather than individual letters. For example, #CamelCase. You can read this Medium article to learn more about the importance of camel case.
Easy Read: A kind of writing that uses pictures and short sentences to explain ideas. Easy Read is useful for people with intellectual disability or low literacy. Easy Read is also sometimes called Easy English.
Flexible working arrangements: when employees can work in a way that does not involve being in an office from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. For example, some employees might work in the office most days but need to work from home for one day per week. Or some employees might need to work entirely from home due to inaccessibility of physical spaces or the danger of the ongoing pandemic. Flexible working arrangements are beneficial for employers and employees.
Job Access: a government website that has information for disabled people and employers about reasonable workplace adjustments.
Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan: An employee can choose to develop a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP). A PEEP says what an employee will need to leave the building in an emergency. You can learn more about PEEPs on the Victorian government website.
PDF tagging: when a PDF is set up to be accessible for screenreaders. There are various organisations who can tag PDFs. Word documents with appropriate headings are an alternative to tagged PDFs.
Plain language: when information is written in a way that is clear and easy to understand, without jargon. Plain language is for everyone.
You can read the Australian government’s guide to plain language for more information.
Social script: a document that uses storytelling techniques to explain new experiences and environments to Autistic people through simple language and images.Learn more about social scripts on the Amaze website.
Reasonable adjustments: when changes in a workplace process or environment make a job possible or easier for a disabled employee. For example, a standing desk or an air purifier could be reasonable adjustments.
Disability organisations to follow
Here is a list of some disability organisations which have newsletters and updates that can be relevant for employers. This is not a complete list, and you might find that some organisations are more relevant for you than others.
Children and Young People with Disability Australia, or CYDAis the national peak body which represents children and young people (aged 0-25) with disability. Visit CYDA’s website for more information.
First People’s Disability Network or FPDN is a national human rights organisation of and for Australia’s first peoples with disability, their families and communities.
People with Disability Australia or PWDA is Australia's national peak disability rights and advocacy organisation by and for people with disability.
Inclusive Rainbow Voices represents and advocates for the human rights of all LGBTIQA+ people with disability.
Visit the Inclusive Rainbow Voices website for more information.
Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability or VALID offers individual and systemic advocacy for people with intellectual disability. They have a vast collection of resources, training tools and information.
Women with Disabilities Victoria or WDV runs events, workshops, community hubs, and leadership programs for women with disabilities in Victoria.
Visit the WDV website for more information.
Women with Disabilities Australia or WWDA is a national Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) for women, girls, feminine identifying and non-binary people with disabilities in Australia.
Visit the WWDA website for more information.
Victorian Disability Worker Commission is where you can report or make a complaint about a worker in the disability space. For example, a support worker. The Victorian Disability Worker Commission will look into your complaint.
Visit the Victorian Disability Worker Commission website for more information.
The National Disability Insurance Agency or NDIA is the organisation that delivers the NDIS. You can read more about the NDIA on the NDIS website.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme or NDIS is a program that supports disabled people to get the services they need. Each person on the scheme gets a plan with funding based on their needs.
You can read our NDIS guide for professionals for more information.
Policies and legal obligations
Access and inclusion plan: a policy that all organisations should have, that explains how the organisation will support staff and community members with disability.
Disability leave: a type of leave that some organisations have for people with disability to use when they need leave because of their disability. For example, if they have to go to an NDIS appointment.
Disability Discrimination Act (1992) or DDA says that it is illegal to discriminate against a person because of their disability.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability or UNCRPDlists the rights that people with disability have.
Ableism: when people without disability are perceived or treated as superior to disabled people. Ableism can manifest in lots of different ways and in all areas of life. For example, an employer assuming that an employee cannot do a job because of their disability.
Able-bodied: generally an acceptable term for someone who is not disabled.
Allistic: a non-autistic person
Audism: discrimination or prejudice against individuals who are d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Infantilisation: when an adult is treated like a child. For example, when someone talks to a person's interpreter or support worker rather than addressing the disabled person directly.
Inspiration porn: When disabled people are seen as inspirational for doing everyday things. You can watch this TED Talk to learn more about inspiration porn.
Internalised ableism: when a disabled person discriminates against themselves or other disabled people because they believe that they cannot ask for support or need to hide their disability.
Intersectionality: The idea that different forms of marginalisation interact, that people in more than one marginalised group will experience different levels of disadvantage or privilege. For example, a trans disabled person may be treated differently to a cis disabled person. You can watch this TED Talk to learn more about intersectionality.
Invisible disability: Any disability that is not evident when looking at a person. For example, chronic pain or chronic illnesses.
Lived experience: when you know a lot about something because it is part of you or your life. For example, a disabled person has lived experience of disability. A parent of a disabled person does NOT have lived experience of disability unless the parent also has a disability.
Neurotypical: when someone thinks and processes information in a way that is standard in their culture.
Neurodivergent: when someone thinks and processes information in a way that is not standard in their culture. Examples of neurodivergence include having dyslexia or ADHD or being autistic.
Non-disabled: the generally accepted way of talking about people who are not disabled. You can also use pre-disabled. You should not use the word "normal" to talk about people without disability.
Social model of disability: one of several ways of thinking about disability. The social model suggests that a person is disabled by the physical, attitudinal and barriers in their environment. For example, if a wheelchair user cannot enter a building because there is no lift, the building is the problem, not the disabled person.
You can learn more about models of disability in our online access and inclusion resource, Together.