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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Resources

This guide is designed to support the study and practical application of resources related to DEIA topics.

Key Terms

Ableism - This can refer to either individual or institutional actions and language that disadvantage or disempower people with disabilities, people experiencing disabilities, or disabled people. Ableism includes mental, physical, and emotional disabilities.

Accessibility -  A proactive solution to providing equal access for all, pursuing accessibility means starting the design process with accessibility in mind. Provided by following an easy to implement set of standards and practices that make "adaptation" unnecessary. One can benefit from accessibility without announcing or explaining their disabilities.

Accommodation - Adaptations that can't be anticipated or standardized. They are different for each individual. Although we should expect there to be a general willingness to accommodate us wherever we go, we can't expect actual, specific accommodations unless and until we ask for them. Accommodations are reactive solutions to address special cases. 

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - Legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government’ programs and services.

Assistive technology (AT) - Any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.

Disability - A mental, emotional, or physical difference that limits a person in everyday activities. Increasingly, disability is being discussed as a social construct, meaning that the mental, emotional, and physical norms from which we then determine what is different or what is a disability are arbitrary.

Examples of Bias-Free Languageā 

The following table illustrates are examples of bias-free language for different types of disabilities. Both problematic and preferred examples are presented. 




Blind or Visually Impairment

Dumb, Invalid 

Blind/Visually Impaired, Person who is blind/visually impaired 

Deaf or Hearing Impairment

Invalid, Deaf-and-Dumb, Deaf-Mute 

Deaf or Hard-of-hearing, Person who is deaf or hard of hearing 

Speech/Communication Disability

Dumb, “One who talks bad" 

Person with a speech / communication disability 

Learning Disability 

Retarded, Slow, BrainDamaged, “Special ed” 

Learning disability, Cognitive disability, Person with a learning or cognitive disability

Mental Health Disability

Hyper-sensitive, Psycho, Crazy, Insane, Wacko, Nuts

Person with a psychiatric disability, Person with a mental health disability 

Mobility/Physical Disability

Handicapped, Physically Challenged, “Special,” Deformed, Cripple, Gimp, Spastic, Spaz, Wheelchairbound, Lame 

Wheelchair user, Physically disabled, Person with a mobility or physical disability 

Emotional Disability 

Emotionally disturbed 

Emotionally disabled, Person with an emotional disability 

Cognitive Disability 

Retard, Mentally retarded, “Special ed”  

Cognitively/Developmentally disabled, Person with a cognitive/developmental disability 


Dwarf, Midget

Someone of short stature, Little Person 

Health Conditions 

Victim, Someone “stricken with” a disease (i.e. “someone stricken with cancer” or “an AIDS victim”) 

Survivor, Someone “living with” a specific disease (i.e. “someone living with cancer or AIDS”)


"Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)," United States Department of Justice---Civil Rights Division.

"Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Vocabulary," The Avarna Group.

Lagrow, Martin. "From Accommodation to Accessibility: Creating a Culture of Inclusitivity," EDUCAUSE Review.

"Respectful Disability Language," National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN) and Kids As Self-Advocates (KASA), Association of University Centers on Disability.

"What is AT?," Assistive Technology Industry Association.

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