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Examining language and vocabulary used by people living with disability

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Examining language and vocabulary used by people living with disability

The Disability Royal Commission’s work is underway. Understandably, there is a lot of communication between the Royal Commission and people with disability. To this end, the Royal Commission commissioned research to explore the use of language by people living with disability.

JFA Purple Orange, an organisation based in South Australia, have submitted their report and conclude that gaining insight into how people with disability understand and use language is significant.

As the Royal Commission explores themes of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, a better understanding of how people living with disability use and make meaning of the language is critical, especially as it examines the experiences of the disability community as part of its work.

Communication comes in the form of submissions, written or signed, images, private sessions or Hearings and at every point, understanding their overall experiences is paramount.

JFA consulted people living with disability and found the terms ‘violence’, ‘abuse’, ‘neglect’ and ‘exploitation’ were interpreted differently.

It also found that some people living with disability felt that ‘help’ from others can be violent or abusive behaviour.

The report says people with disability may also include mental, emotional, psychological and financial acts as being violent, abusive or exploitative.

The paper says people with disability also often feel like they are at greater risk of violence than people in the wider community and that it would be harder for them to escape from such acts.

The word ‘violence’ includes physical violence, bullying, verbal violence, harm, rape, sexual assault, murder, controlling, pinching, hitting and removal of one’s agency.

The word ‘abuse’ meant more than physical acts and included domestic violence, control, power, gaslighting, vulnerable, rape, hitting and ignored.

The term ‘neglect’ included terms such as ‘people not caring’, or ‘needs not being met’.

Not all participants understood the term ‘exploitation’, with one participant living with intellectual disability saying, ‘I’ve heard of the word, but I don’t know what it is’.

Perpetrators of abuse could be individuals as well as institutions, leading to mistrust by people living with disability to report abusive behaviour.

The Purple Orange report stated the Australian community and the Royal Commission would benefit from hearing and understanding the stories from people with disability. Further, the broader Australian community needs to acknowledge, understand and embrace the Government’s National Disability Strategy and make the necessary changes to transform the experience of people living with disability.

The full report and more information is available on our website, in the Publications section.