Words Matter.


Select a letter to navigate the glossary


About the Glossary

Words have power and affect how people interpret the world. Words can make us (and others) do things, feel things, or believe things. We also have power when we find new ways of using old words, or creating new words for old things or ideas. Using language to challenge old beliefs gives deeper meaning to our lives and our experiences — but it also gives us power. It is important that the glossary’s users feel comfortable altering, revising, and shifting terms and definitions over time to reflect new feelings, attitudes, and beliefs.




(Noun)  Discrimination or bigotry against people considered disabled by mainstream society



(Noun) The ability to be accessed; especially in reference to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities



(Noun) Efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis, with the desire to make improvements in society and to change society



(Noun) Public support for a particular cause or policy



(Noun) The awareness that one has power over one’s own actions in the world, independent of the external world

After he compelled the city to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act and install an elevator in the subway station, Allan realized that he had agency for positive change.



(Noun) A person who is not part of a particular group, but is supportive of the group; one who acts to help and aid


/s əˈmerəkəns wiT͟H ˌdisəˈbilədēs akt əv ˌnīnˈtēn-ˈnīn(t)ē/

(Noun) Legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities


/ˈaNGɡrē   krip/

(Noun phrase) A disabled person perceived as inconvenient; refusing to be meek or obedient, contrary to social expectation; outraged by discrimination; “acts out” when confronted with ableism

A woman’s wheelchair was damaged by a pothole on a street in Australia and when the city council declined to reimburse her for repairs, instead saying that it was her weight that caused the damage, she was characterized in an article as being an angry crip because she refused to drop her complaint.




(Noun) The classification of people and/or identities into two distinct, opposite, and disconnected forms

English speakers have only two gender-specific pronouns to choose from, the him/her, he/she binaries.



(Noun) Asserting, or reasserting the legitimacy of a disability; being required to provide a narrative of disability to convince or prove an illness; refers to healthcare workers, government, or social service workers, friends and family

Gail tried not to be impatient each time she saw a new doctor and had to explain symptoms before her autoimmune disease was diagnosed and she could end the tiring process of biocertification.


/ˈbädəlē  dīˈvərs/

(Adjective) The understanding that there are variant forms of acceptable bodies - and social conventions should allow for more than one normative shape, appearance, or configuration internally or externally; see neurodiverse

Allowing their children to wait to choose which sex and gender to identify with rather than accepting what their doctors assert at birth, parents of intersex children are creating a more bodily diverse society.




(Noun) An individual who uses the resources native to them to change themselves, and create social change in the places and people around them

Instead of getting stuck in all of the things they do not have (like money, time, energy or community), changemakers ask, “What resources do I have?”



(Noun) A sardonic description of a disabled person; importantly, confined to use by the in-group; considered offensive when used by outsiders

Harriet McBryde Johnson was a lawyer and disability rights activist who was quoted as referring to herself a “bedpan crip,” challenging perceptions of the disabled as weak and insignificant.


 /krip  ˌsäləˈderədē/

(Noun Phrase) Used in the disability rights community and their allies to act together — regardless of other differences — as a means of forcing social, legal, healthcare, spatial, and other forms of change

In her blog “leaving evidence,” Mia Mingus writes, “What does crip solidarity [emphasis added] look like? . . . I know what it is like to be left behind, left out, forgotten about. I know you know as well. We vow to not do that together, to each other.”


/ˈhaSHtaɡ  krip  T͟Hə  vōt/

(Verb) A disabled-led, non-partisan campaign that engages voters and politicians in a productive discussion around disability issues in the United States; #CripTheVote was co-founded by disability activists Alice Wong, Gregg Beratan, and Andrew Pulrang

People with disabilities make up the largest minority in the country. Yet, disability is frequently not acknowledged, or is omitted altogether, as a mainstream topic of discussion. #CripTheVote was created to disrupt the silence of politicians, all voters, and the media around disability issues in American politics.



(Verb) The process of generating ideas or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community

MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence brought together over 10,000 collaborators in a crowdsourcing initiative to design innovative solutions to climate change.


/kərb-kət əˈfekt/

(Noun) Refers to a product, service, or design that was initially created as an accommodation for a person with a disability, but was later found to have value for many people, regardless of disability



/dəˈzīn  ˈekwədē/

(Compound Noun) The principle that all technology, products, and services should be designed for use by people with diverse abilities, bodies, and all minds, as opposed to designing only for "normal" bodies and minds; see universal design

The latest version of the Apple Watch incorporated principles of design equity when it was programmed to track workout analytics for wheelchair-users.



(Noun) A physical, mental, or emotional condition that limits a person's movements, senses, or activities



(Adjective) The inability to function or be like others; physical, emotional, or neurological differences that limit activity or performance, generally with respect to work or education

In order to take exams in a quiet room, Celia had the Student Services Department provide her teacher documentation stating that she had met the medical criteria for being disabled.


/ˌdisəˈbilədē ˈstədēs/

(Noun) An academic discipline that examines disability as a social, cultural and political construct; disability studies focuses on how disability is defined and represented in society, and on barriers that exist within society; in contrast to a medical model of disability



(Noun) The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.



(Noun) The condition of having or being composed of differing elements; variety; especially in the inclusion of different types of people (as in people of different races, classes, genders, sexualities, disabilities) in a group or organization



/ˌejəˈkāSH(ə)n tekˈnäləjē/

(Noun) Refers to the use of both physical hardware and educational theoretics to facilitate learning and improve performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources



(Noun) the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities



(Noun) The quality of being just, fair and impartial

504 PLAN

/fīv o͞o fôr plan/

(Noun) A plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment (2)




(Noun) Political or cultural dominance or authority over others, such that the ruling group acquires some degree of consent from the subordinate to abide by socially normative ideas, values, and beliefs, as opposed to dominance purely by force

The hegemony of "normalcy" marginalizes and shames bodily and neuro diversity, and reinforces a narrow, unrealistic, and idealistic version of how the human body should look, perform, and be maintained.


/ˈ(h)yo͞omən ˈrēˌsôrses/

(Noun) The department of a business or organization that deals with the hiring, administration, and training of personnel, maximizing employee productivity, and protecting the company from any issues that may arise from the workforce




(Noun) The idiosyncratic way a person aligns with a particular group or presents as an individual to society

Because Lennard Davis was born hearing to deaf parents and grew up bilingual with American Sign Language, he has incorporated the Deaf community and its values into his identity.


/ ˌīˈden(t)ədē - fərst ˈlaNGɡwij/

(Noun) A way to communicate about disabilities that places the disability-related word first; identity-first language may be seen as a way to recognize or affirm one’s identity as disabled


/ ˌindəˈvij(o͞o)əˌlīz  ˌejəˈkāSH(ə)n  plan/

(Noun) A plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services (1)


/ˌinspəˈrāSH(ə)n  pôrn/

(Noun Phrase) Used in the disability community as a pejorative term; someone with a disability is a token success for others; being admired solely for having a disability

When people tell the actor in a wheelchair that he is an “inspiration to us all,” he considers that insulting and inspiration porn, as his purpose in life is not to make someone else feel good by being an exemplar.


/ˌintərsekSHəˈnalədē/  /ˌintərsekSHəˈnal/

(Noun) Accounts for multiple grounds of identity when considering how the social world is constructed; the interaction and overlapping of multiple forms of identity, such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, age, religion, and disability.

Our identities (disabled / able-bodied; straight / gay / queer; female / male / transgender / gender queer; black / brown / white / yellow; rich / poor) are complex, intersectional social constructions that change over time.


/inˈvizəb(ə)l  ˌdisəˈbilədē/

(Compound Noun) A disability that cannot be easily seen or measured; often discounted or not respected

Jean looked just fine because her insulin pump regulates her diabetes; thus, her colleagues cannot understand why she needs to leave the room or bring extra food and drink; she has an invisible disability and she feels she must ask for accommodations that someone with a visible disability would get automatically.




(Noun) Treatment of a person, group, or concept as insignificant or peripheral


/ˈmen(t)l helTH/

(Compound Noun) A person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being


/ˈmen(t)l  ˈilnəs/

(Compound Noun) The common definition for someone who has a neurodiversity; a disability that is neurologically-based, chemically dependent; an illness that affects mood, feeling, the ability to function; pejorative, not the neurological analogue to physical illness

When Evan took his medication he felt better, but could also believe he might no longer have a mental illness; this complicated his relations with friends and family.



/n(y)o͝oˈro dīˈvərs/

(Adjective) Respecting multifarious neurological realities; neurological differences are instead variations; diverse accepts more than one acceptable type and is neutral; see bodily diverse, normal

Acknowledging her husband’s ADD as neurodiverse means that she understands he approaches time and organization differently than she does—and he is often more creative and innovative than she.



(Adjective) Conforming to a standard; typical, usual, or expected



(Adjective) The socially-determined type of body or mental state others are compared to, and when different, to be found lacking; what is considered “typical” of humans

The term normate was coined by Rosemary Garland-Thomson to provide an alternative to the concept that there is one version of humanity and others must be compared to it; semantically, when a new idea or version of something is created, then the original must move over and provide definitional space for the other.



(Adjective) Relating to an ideal standard or model, or being based on what is considered to be the normal or correct way of doing something; conforming to the social standard

The demands placed on diverse bodies and minds are demands that attempt to bring disability closer to an idealized, normative standard of how human bodies/minds should look, perform, and be maintained.



/ˈōpən  ˈledər/

(Compound Noun) A letter or document often directed to a specific audience but also intended to be widely disseminated; often of a political nature

After a white celebrity chef was accused of taking as her own the recipes of her long-time assistant, Michael W. Twitty wrote an open letter decrying racism in white Southern cooking - which has long appropriated the foodways and cultural history of African Americans.



(Noun) An individual or group who lacks the essential characteristics of a particular dominant social group or social norm; one who is perceived by the dominant group as different, or as not belonging in some fundamental way. The other may be someone who is of a different race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, dis/ability, or age

Anya transferred to a new high school where she was the only wheelchair user among her peers, and she was seen and treated as other by the people around her.



(Verb) To make or regard a person or social group as alien or different; see other

Some technology companies want to work with people on the Autism spectrum, specifically to utilize their unique thinking skills; but these companies must avoid using language and structures that keep people otherized or separate.




(Noun) A typical example or pattern of something; a model



(Verb) To be identified, recognized, or accepted as something one is not

Once she attended Gallaudet University, decided to remove her hearing aids and only communicate by signing, she made it clear to others that she no longer wanted to pass as a hearing person.


/ˈpərs(ə)n - ferst ˈlaNGɡwij/

(Noun) A way to communicate about disabilities that places the person first, followed by the disability or disability descriptor, so that the disability is no longer the primary, defining characteristic of an individual, but one of several aspects of the whole person.


/pəˌlidək(ə)lē  kəˈrekt/

(Adjective) A belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex, race, or disability) should be avoided or eliminated


/ˌsīkēˈatrik  əˈmərjənsē  rəˈspäns  tēm/

(Noun)  Specially trained police officers and deputies who are paired with licensed mental health professionals. Together, they respond on-scene to situations involving people who are experiencing a mental health related crisis and have come to the attention of law enforcement. The goal is to provide the most appropriate resolution to the crisis by linking people to the least restrictive level of care, and to help prevent the unnecessary incarceration or hospitalization of those seen.

The PERT team was called in to evaluate the situation, assess the individual's mental health condition and needs, and, if appropriate, transport the individual to a hospital or other treatment center, or refer to the individual to a community-based resource or treatment facility.



/rəˈklāmd ˌīˈden(t)ədē/  /re-əˈprōprēˌātd  ˌīˈden(t)ədē/

(Noun Phrase) A marginalized group takes a negative term or association that has been previously used negatively and uses it positively as a marker of self-identification; typically used in the gay, African-American, feminist, and disability communities; see crip

Young women assert a reappropriated identity and take control of their sexuality when they describe themselves as sluts.




(Noun) The feeling of guilt or fear of being exposed as wrong, disgraced, or unacceptable

Arthur felt shame as he got older and he lost his driver’s license—and with it his independence—making him feel he depended on his children.


/ˈspeSHəl ˌejəˈkāSH(ə)n/

(Noun Phrase) Educational programs and practices designed for students with disabilities who require special teaching approaches, equipment, or care within or outside a regular classroom


/spo͞on ˈTHēərē/  /spo͞onz/

(Noun Phrase) A simple explanation for how someone with a disability has a limited daily bank of energy and once depleted the person can no longer function; visualizing a fistful of spoons at the beginning of the day and removing a spoon for each activity, is how Christine Miserandino made the term famous. She and others show the effects of lupus and other chronic diseases and being unable to effect self-care after the allotted number of spoons are removed; the term is contested and considered facile and patronizing by some disability rights activists

To explain how chronic fatigue affects her, Jody tells others that she starts the day with ten symbolic spoons and for each self-care activity like showering or driving to school, she takes away a spoon; once she has none she is so exhausted that she must go to bed.



(Noun) A negative mark or distinction applied to someone who others deem as different or unacceptable

Because of the social stigma associated with being adopted, her parents decided that if they told her, she would feel less like a member of the family.


/ˈso͞opər krip/

(Compound Noun) Related to inspiration porn; someone with a disability is highlighted as special; effectually marginalized and considered special because of the disability; used by the disability community to expose biases in those who do not have disabilities

Erik Weihenmayer, a blind man, climbed to the top of Mt. Everest; while he was given press attention for accomplishing something few have done, the press adulated him for being an exemplar of disability.



/ˌyo͞onəˈvərsəl  dəˈzīn/

(Compound Noun) An approach to design that is meant to produce buildings, products, and environments that are accessible to virtually everyone, without the need for adaptation or specialized design, regardless of ability or age 

Gregory, who is of short stature, felt encouraged during his campus visit to the Culinary Arts Academy when he saw that all of the classroom kitchens were universally designed with countertops of varying heights.


1. "What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 Plan?" What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 Plan? | DO-IT. University of Washington DO-IT, 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.

2."What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 Plan?" What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 Plan? | DO-IT. University of Washington DO-IT, 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.