Stephanie Walker

User Experience Design and Accessibility

A Rhetoric Tipsheet: How to respectfully address those with disabilities

Picture of Disability Tip sheet

Quick Summary

Created a guide on the proper language when addressing or writing about those who have disabilities. Then, at the Accessible Learning Conference in December of 2018, I gave a presentation inspired by this tipsheet, and led a discussion about this Disability Rhetoric with the audience.

The Issue/ Task

  • Unfortunately, society often treats the word “disability” as a dirty word, or as if it is bad. Because of this, people often marginalize, discriminate against, stereotype, and/or stigmatize people with disabilities.
  • Disability is actually a part of someone’s identity, and they deserve to be treated respectfully and equally to people without disabilities or as people with a different disability.
  • The purpose of this tipsheet is to tell (and show) people why their attitude and behavior towards people with disabilities needs to change, and specifically how to change it.
  • This tipsheet will be printed out on cardstock and displayed and/or handed out throughout the university, in order to spread its message.

My Role

  • This project was begun by a former colleague, Darrell Williams, and I took on this project after him. I was responsible for taking the document that Darrell had created (which was already great) and improving the design.
  • In the process, I ended up changing some of the content, based on some consulting with an accessibility rhetoric professional. This was just to make sure that the most important content was covered in the tipsheet, since it could only be one page and there was limited space.

My Process (Summarized)

  • Used Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for design/creation of the document itself
  • Used Adobe Acrobat PDF for Accessible Document Remediation Review
  • Met with colleagues/experts in the field to discuss the content

My Process (Detailed)

Phase One: Reviewing Content

  • Review the design of the current tipsheet, especially the colors and the layout, to make it easier to read and accessible to read by screen readers.
  • I realized that the content also needed to be reviewed and updated, and not just the design. So, I scheduled a meeting with Phil Deaton, who at the time was the MSU Digital Accessibility Coordinator and a scholar in disability/accessibility rhetoric.
  • In this consultation, I learned a lot about disability rhetoric and how important it is. This included learning about the difference between Person-First vs. Identity First Language.
    • Check out the links at the bottom of the tipsheet for some resources that describe what this is in more detail (The link to download the document is located at the top of the page).

Phase Two: Revising Content

  • Begin to revise content listed on the tipsheet based on the feedback from Phil Deaton.
  • Work with an MSU accessibility intern to continue to refine the content.
Picture of Disability Tip sheet
First Section of the Disability Rhetoric Tipsheet

Phase Three: Designing the Document

  • Once the content was finalized, I began to design the document. I used both Illustrator and InDesign to complete this task.
  • I decided to use MSU colors since this document was going to be produced through the College of Arts and Letters at MSU. For this same reason, I also added the MSU Logo.

Final Outcome: Why is this important?

As I briefly mentioned before, people with disabilities are often treated differently or even marginalized for their disability. This document served as a tool to begin to counteract that kind of behavior, and show people how people with disabilities deserve to be treated. This is important because, this document serves as a stepping stone to increase the respect, inclusion, and immersion of people with disabilities within everyday society. Although this document has yet to be printed and distributed across campus, this document/project did inspire a talk about Disability Rhetoric (including a discussion of Person First vs. Identity First Language) at the Accessible Learning Conference in December of 2018. This conference is held every year at Michigan State University.

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