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Office of Marketing and University Communication

Guidelines for Bias-free Communication

Care should be taken in the preparation of printed materials, photographs and visual presentations to avoid sexism and discrimination through the use of language or depiction. Preferred usages change; the point is to try to communicate in a way that is respectful of diversity. A number of guides exist which are helpful in suggesting more encompassing words and phrases.

Disabilities

  • For example, one current guide to appropriate terminology offers the following: People who are blind, visually impaired, developmentally disabled, physically disabled or persons with or who have cerebral palsy, mental illness, speech impairment, a seizure disorder, paraplegia.
  • The term developmentally disabled can refer to a mental or physical disability that has its onset before age 22.
  • Avoid use of “suffers from” or “victims.”
  • It is preferable to say “uses a wheelchair” rather than “is confined to a wheelchair.”
  • The term handicap should be avoided in describing a disability. Also, it’s always “people with disabilities” and not “disabled persons.”

Gender-based pronouns

Those who wish to avoid gender-based pronouns may do so by using a plural construction. Some style guides maintain that the usage “any professor who teaches his students” is correct, but it’s better to avoid such a construction. “Any professors who teach their students” or “... his or her students” is preferred. (Use of the device “his/her” probably calls too much attention to itself.)

Race

Regional preferences regarding use of terms such as African American, black, American Indian, Native American and First Nations are addressed in various online style guides. Be aware, however, that preferences regarding language will vary, for example, even among tribal nations located within a few miles of each other within Wisconsin. It is advisable to consult current references. Also, be sensitive to context. For example, to describe someone as Southeast Asian might be accurate but insufficient if the cultural context benefits from more specific identification as being of Hmong or Lao heritage.

Depicting diversity

Visual images for University print and online communication should be selected with an awareness that, on balance over a range of publications, the institution should seek to represent the racial, ethnic and general diversity of both its current community and potential target audiences.

Equal opportunity statement

Use the following statement, where possible, in publications that mention programs available to the public:

In conformance with applicable federal and state regulations, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is committed to nondiscrimination, equal opportunity and affirmative action in its educational programs and employment policies. Inquiries may be directed to the Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity officer in Human Resources.