For journalists

The IHC Communications Team has developed some guidelines to support journalists when reporting or interviewing people with an intellectual disability.

Over time, language changes, as will this list – but it’s a good starting point to use the correct terminology and avoid using outdated or hurtful words.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

What is an intellectual disability?

Intellectual disability is a term used when a person has difficulty understanding, concentrating, learning and remembering new things in their everyday life.

People with an intellectual disability may need support to develop new skills, understand complex information and communicate with other people.

An intellectual disability almost always becomes evident during the developmental years. Despite certain limitations, people with an intellectual disability often have other strengths and capabilities.

People with an intellectual disability are all very different individuals. Some of them have additional health problems or disabilities that can make their lives harder.

Different types of intellectual disabilities

There are different types of intellectual disabilities, which can be classified as mild, moderate, severe or profound. In all cases an intellectual disability is lifelong.

These categories are not rigid and there are no clear dividing lines between the different groups. It’s important to realise that language is constantly changing. The words we use to describe intellectual disability have changed over time, and will continue to change, as a result of listening to people with personal experience and as a result of changing values and attitudes in society.

IHC believes it’s much more useful to address how much support a person with an intellectual disability might need instead of classifying to which group they belong. However, an agreed definition can be useful to let us know which people will be included for funding and support, how to diagnose it and how to plan supports for people to live satisfying lives in the community.

Reporting on intellectual disability*

There are some words that you should avoid when reporting on intellectual disability.

Information about IHC and the wider organisation

The IHC Group of Charities encompasses three wholly-owned subsidiaries with contract funding and community programmes funded by donations.

Interviewing people with an intellectual disability

It’s always important to consider the rights of people with intellectual disability in the media. If you would like to connect with someone who has an intellectual disability for your story, we might be able to support you to do this.

Here are some questions regarding human rights that we’ve developed for you to consider:





*Modified from Endeavour Foundation

Related pages

News and media

What is an intellectual disability?

Being a good communicator

Journalist Guide cover

IHC Journalist's Guide to Intellectual Disability