Inclusive language: what’s in a word?
The way we use language in society is constantly adapting and changing to reflect our changing lives, experiences and cultures. The use of new terminology to reflect our experiences enables us to talk about new ideas and technologies. Some words die out (when was the last time you talked about sending a fax?), only to be replaced by others which more appropriately reflect how we now live. We may continue to use some words but with new meaning: many of us might “hoover” with a different brand of vacuum for example. Meanwhile, other words depend on context and geographical location. As a person born and bred in Manchester, I’d argue vehemently that dinner is a small meal during the day whilst tea is at 6 o’clock. Others may have different perspectives and this might lead to confusion from time to time. The only constant we have in the use of language is to know it is ever changing, context dependant and open to interpretation.
What are we proposing and why?
For ManCAD there are other reasons why language is such an important topic and this is the reason why I write this blog. Language enables human beings to understand more about the world and the words we use reflect both the people we are and the people they describe. Language choices have the ability to delight, break down barriers and enable us to communicate more clearly with one another. They also have the ability to offend, build barriers and increase misunderstanding. Many aspects of terminology which were once in use in the UK are now out of use. This is particularly true in the field of disability where people with lived experience have (quite rightly) brought about change.
The work at ManCAD began in 1919. Since then there have been many changes in the field of deafness and audiology and many changes in the societies we live in. With this in mind, in 2021/2022 we are working across the ManCAD group on a Common Language Policy. The aim of this Policy will be to consider the language we use to describe deafness and those who experience being deaf. On the Deaf Education programme all children who experience deafness are referred to as “deaf”. However, we are aware that there are a range of terms in use from hearing impaired, hearing loss, deaf, Deaf etc. Many people with lived experience have expressed their opinions with regard to negative terminology being used to describe them. As experts with lived experience it is time for their views to be heard. We appreciate that embarking on this project is a challenging ambition, however, we feel that the time is right to consider what terminology should be used and articulate considerations of how we move forward.
How will we do this?
In moving forward with our discussions of a Common Language Policy we will be engaging with people with lived experience of being deaf and parents of deaf children. The project will be led by a person with lived experience of being deaf and will include representatives from relevant groups. At Manchester, we embrace, celebrate and respect differences. We want to write about our work in ways that promote equality, diversity and inclusion.
Interested in knowing more?
As this project takes shape I will seek to update the webpage here. If you would like to know more, or like to be involved in shaping how we move forward in this project, then please let me know.
Dr Helen Chilton – email@example.com