Hello DEV Community! 👋
In recent months, you have probably seen a few posts from the DEV Community Success team — posts like this one on avoiding plagiarism from @itscasey and this one by yours truly from a few months back about the various community moderation roles and duties within our community as well as an overall framing of our Code of Conduct.
The goal of these posts is to equip you with more context about the decisions we make collectively as moderators/community managers. We hope that showing you all a bit of our thought process and talking about the specific ways that we strive to create a positive environment will be enlightening and encouraging, giving you folks a clear window to better understand how we go about building a kind and inclusive community.
This post is no exception to the goals above. We hope it teaches you a bit more about our stance on ableist language while also providing some examples of inclusive language and how to use it.
At its core, ableism is discrimination against people with disabilities, rooted in the pervasive belief that people without disabilities are “better”. Because this belief has persisted throughout society for centuries, ableism can be seen in nearly every community, industry, and facet of the world we live in.
Ableist language is a symptom of ableist beliefs in our society: it refers to the words, terms, and phrases we use, frequently unconsciously, that devalue and disenfranchise disabled individuals and communities. In the words of Lydia X. Z. Brown (American autistic disability rights activist, writer, attorney, and public speaker), linguistic ableism...
- "Is part of an entire system of ableism, and doesn't exist simply by itself,"
- "Signifies how deeply ableist our societies and cultures are by how common and accepted ableism is in language."
- "Reinforces and perpetuates ableist social norms that normalize violence and abuse against disabled people."
- "Actively creates less safe spaces by re-traumatizing disabled people, and"
- "Uses ableism to perpetuate other forms of oppression." [ source ]
There are many examples of ableist language to be aware of, but instead of sharing them there, we invite you to look at Lydia X. Z. Brown’s glossary of ableist terms.
DEV Community member @eevajonnapanula also has a fantastic and multi-faceted guide to avoiding ableism/ableist language and improving our approach to accessibility in this article:
Web accessibility is an increasingly visible topic in software development, which is a fantastic thing. Every day, we see so many informative and important posts under the #a11y tag right here on DEV and we have the pleasure of learning so much from all of you on this topic.
But while it’s critical that we use our position as builders of technology to include and advocate for all people, it’s also important that we continuously examine how we demonstrate inclusivity in our daily behavior and communication with one another.
By now, you probably know that DEV is a community and content-sharing platform for software developers. Because of this, all of us write and distribute words constantly. As moderators of this space, the DEV Community Success team and our site moderators are dedicated to ensuring all content shared here is inclusive and free of ableist language. We appreciate those of you who have submitted reports of this nature for our attention.
When you signed up for DEV, you read our Code of Conduct. In it, we describe our commitment to making our community a harassment-free experience for everyone, “regardless of age, body size, disability, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, level of experience, nationality, personal appearance, race, religion, or sexual identity and orientation”.
Ableist language fits neatly into the category of activity that we take a stance against as moderators.
While the use of ableist language can often be used intentionally to harm others, it is frequently used unintentionally. In reviewing a glossary of ableist terms, you might even find a handful of words that you use regularly without any idea of their implications for disabled people. Your first reaction may even be to get a bit defensive; you may think I'm not using these words to hurt anyone, so why should I censor myself in this way? We really encourage you to try to see past that initial defensive reaction and think empathetically about how using this language might negatively affect those around you.
Please understand that our team of moderators considers all reports and examples of ableist language individually. In some cases, we might privately message someone a simple request to replace language that they’re using for more inclusive language instead. In others, we might decide to warn or suspend a community member if the behavior is found to be intended to harm or demean others. If you use a term on DEV that our moderators identify as ableist in nature, it does not make you a “bad” person and our goal is never to humiliate or alienate you for unintentional use of these terms. We simply share this information (or take steps to moderate an offending discussion or account) to maintain a healthy and safe environment for everyone here. 🙂
So, now that we’ve covered ableist language, let’s talk about the inverse: inclusive language!
As the Linguistic Society of America explains, inclusive language “acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities.” Using inclusive language is something we should all strive to do and it’s one of the first bullet points listed in DEV’s Code of Conduct.
If you think you might benefit from reviewing some examples of inclusive language and ableist language, there are a number of fantastic resources available to you right here on DEV and on the wider web. Here are a few that our team recommends:
- Inclusive Language Guide – Northwestern University
- Ableist Terms and Words to Avoid – Lydia X. Z. Brown
- How to remove condescending language from documentation – @meeshkan
- DevDiscuss S1E9: How to Develop for Neurodiversity and Universal Accessibility
Thank you so much for being part of the DEV Community and helping us make this a place that all people can enjoy and feel supported by.
Have any additional inclusive language resources to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!