Ability-Centric Language - Definition and Explanation

Ability-Centric Language – Definition and Explanation

Ability-Centric Language


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Understanding Ability-Centric Language: Promoting Inclusivity in Diversity Initiatives

In today’s diverse and inclusive society, it’s crucial to adopt language that respects and acknowledges everyone’s abilities. Ability-centric language, a fundamental aspect of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, prioritises inclusivity by focusing on individuals’ abilities rather than their disabilities. 


Ability-centric language refers to communication that emphasises an individual’s abilities and talents, regardless of any disabilities they may have. It involves using respectful and empowering terminology that recognises the diverse capabilities of all individuals, fostering a culture of inclusion and equality.

Significance of Ability-Centric Language:

  1. Promotes Inclusivity: Ability-centric language promotes inclusivity by recognising and valuing the strengths and abilities of every individual, irrespective of their differences.
  2. Reduces Stigma: By shifting the focus from disabilities to abilities, this language helps reduce stigma and negative stereotypes associated with disabilities, creating a more positive and accepting environment.
  3. Empowers Individuals: Using ability-centric language empowers individuals by highlighting their unique talents and contributions, boosting confidence and self-esteem.
  4. Enhances Accessibility: It contributes to making spaces, services, and resources more accessible to individuals with disabilities, facilitating their full participation in society.


Instead of saying “disabled person,” one could use “person with disabilities,” placing emphasis on the person first rather than the disability. Similarly, replacing “wheelchair-bound” with “wheelchair user” or “person who uses a wheelchair” focuses on the individual’s ability to use a mobility aid rather than being defined by it.


Incorporating ability-centric language into our everyday communication is crucial for building a more inclusive society where everyone feels valued and respected. By embracing this approach, we not only promote diversity and equity but also create environments that celebrate the unique abilities of every individual. Let’s strive to make ability-centric language the norm in our interactions, thereby fostering a culture of inclusivity and empowerment.


Bergin, J. (2014). Ability Means Ability: An Ability-Centric Interpretation That Reinvigorates the Pregnancy Discrimination Act’s Protections for Pregnant Workers. Women’s Rts. L. Rep.36, 36. https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/worts36&div=5&id=&page=

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