10 considerations for developing content featuring persons with disabilities

Ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities we have complied 10 musts to ensure inclusive and accessible communication.

UNICEF Armenia
Աղջնակը մատիկներով ցույց է տալիս երեք թիվը։
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Avagyan
06 December 2021

By practicing disability-inclusive communications, we can reflect the true diversity of our societies. Inclusive and accessible communications reduce bias and discrimination and promote inclusion and participation.

15% of the world’s population have a disability, 1 in 10 children is a child with a disability and 1 in 5 women is likely to experience disability during her life. So here comes golden rule - Increase representation of children, youth and adults with disabilities of all types, throughout external and internal communication.

Preparing documents and articles or any other content, communicating through digital platforms, or running multi-channel campaigns, make sure you follow these guidelines developed to respect disability etiquette.

  1. Stories should show persons with disabilities in active roles, rather than passive. Recognize their diversity and experience by including voices of children, adults, siblings, authority figures and older persons with disabilities.
  2. When you portray persons with disabilities you do not need to distinguish persons with disabilities from the general population. Don’t focus on differences - focus on similarities and how inclusivity means we can all enjoy full lives.
  3. Give attention to the roles that persons with disabilities play in society. Like everyone else, they have different personalities and social skills. Stories should portray them in their everyday roles, as professionals or students and in every phase of their life. Children and adults with disabilities can be both the authors of the stories and the actors who perform those stories.
  4. Let persons with disabilities display a range of emotions and be themselves like everyone else. Focus on person, the human emotion, and the purpose of the story. Do not focus on a person’s impairment or devices – wheelchair, white cane, etc.
  5. Use person-first language, put ‘person’ before ‘disability’. Use neutral language, rather than overtly positive language
  6. ‘Persons with disabilities’ is the correct term, which does not need to be modified. Avoid euphemisms such as ‘special needs’ or ‘differently abled’ which attempt to hide or gloss over a person’s identity.
  • ‘Child who is blind’ rather than ‘blind child’,
  • ‘Person who uses a wheelchair’, rather than ‘restricted to the wheelchair’
  • ‘Person with an intellectual disability’ rather than mentally retarded
  • ‘Person with down’ rather than Down, special person
  • ‘Person who uses assistive technology’
  1. Consult persons with disabilities and their representative organizations. Actively include them when you create stories. Ensures the participation of children and youth with disabilities in campaign planning and content production – to reduce ‘ability bias’ and to ensure we are telling first-person stories.
  2. Do not disclose a person’s impairment unless the person has divulged it and information is relevant to the story’s content. Refer to the disability only if it is relevant to a story
  3. Do not portray persons with disabilities as vulnerable or a burden on others, living a life of less value or quality.
  4. Avoid outdated stereotypes, such as ‘the suffering, pitiful, innocent, courageous, successful, brave, heroic or inspirational child or youth with a disability. Avoid negative language such as ‘victims’, ‘afflicted with’, ‘stricken with’, ‘suffers from’, or ‘traumatized’

 

In short, here are the checklists.

Checklist. Language and style - (If you answer ‘NO’ to any of the questions below, read the article once again)

  • Does the text use person-first language (except as requested by a person with disability)?
  • Is it free of pejorative language, euphemisms, and ableist language?
  • Is the language simple and concise? Does it avoid jargon and idioms?
  • Did you consider using various accessible formats (sign language interpretation, Braille, large print, easy-to-read, etc.)?

Checklist: visual and audio production - (If you answer ‘NO’ to any of the questions below, read the article once again)

  • Show the diversity of persons with disabilities
  • Focus on the person, not the sign language interpreter or assistive device
  • Show persons with disabilities in their everyday contexts, fulfilling a variety of roles
  • Ensure the camera’s focus is the same for everyone
  • Avoid dim or dark lighting, flashing lights or images or sudden or loud sounds.

 

Simple improvements can help persons who are blind or have low vision or have color blindness or a cognitive disability to receive information as you intend.

  • Whenever you can, use a range of media to convey information, this way you are more likely to reach persons with disabilities.
  • Never rely only on color to communicate data or actions.
  • Include image descriptions and/or alt text for images and graphics. Alternative text tells people what is in an image, such as text or basic essential details. Alt text is read by screen readers and other assistive devices.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) embraces the differences between human beings and underlines the importance of taking the diversity of the human experience into account. And communication play a key role in changing norms and shifting from a charity or a medical model to the human-rights-based approach that should guide all of us.