The ABC of EDI

There are many terms used in the field of equality, diversity and inclusion. Here we have tried to bring together the most commonly used terms, along with their synonyms and any 'controversy signposting' as a guide to using the terms

A glossary of terms



Power or capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, morally, financially, etc. RefValley College (2021). EDI Glossary

Comment: See also - Able-bodied, Ableism, Disability, Able-bodied Privilege/Ability Privilege

Ability Privilege

An advantage people gain simply because they are not limited by physical or mental impairments. Sometimes able-bodied people perceive themselves as ''normal', and wrongly presume that everyone has the same opportunities, abilities and access. (2022)

Comment: See also - Ability, Able-bodied, Ableism, Disability
Synonyms: Able-bodied privilege


Term is used to describe someone who does not identify as having a disability. RefNational Center on Disability and Journalism (2021). Disability Language Style Guide

Comment: Some members of the disability community oppose its use because it implies that all people with disabilities lack 'able bodies' or the ability to use their bodies well. They may prefer 'non-disabled' or 'enabled' as being more accurate.

Able-bodied Privilege

An advantage people gain simply because they are not limited by physical or mental impairments. Sometimes able-bodied people perceive themselves as ''normal', and wrongly presume that everyone has the same opportunities, abilities and access. (2022)

Comment: See also - Ability, Able-bodied, Ableism, Disability
Synonyms: Ability privilege


Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental and/or emotional ability that contribute to a system of oppression; usually of able‐bodied/minded persons against people with illness, disabilities or less developed skills. RefBristol Autism Support (2021)

Comment: See also - Ability, Able-bodied, Disability, Able-bodied Privilege/Ability Privilege


Accessibility is about making sure your service can be used by as many people as possible. It includes the extent to which a facility is readily approachable and usable by individuals with physical disabilities, such as self-opening doors, elevators for upper levels, or raised lettering on signs.

Making a website or mobile app accessible means making sure it can be used by as many people as possible. This includes those with impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments or learning disabilities, deafness or impaired hearing. 

RefUK Government (2022)

Comment: The concept of accessibility does not just apply to disabled people - all users will have different needs at different times and in different circumstances. Someone’s ability to use a service could be affected by their location, health or equipment.


A change in the environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to have equal opportunity, access and participation. RefU.S. Department of Labor (2022)


A process in which members of one cultural group adopt the beliefs, values, and behaviours of another culture, while still retaining their own distinct culture. This process is most commonly discussed regarding a minority culture adopting elements of the majority culture, as is typically the case with immigrant groups that are culturally or ethnically distinct from the majority in the place to which they have immigrated. RefCole, NL (2019). "Understanding Acculturation and Why It Happens", ThoughtCo, 30 December, 2020,

Comment: This concept is not to be confused with assimilation, where an individual, family, or group may give up certain aspects of its culture in order to adapt to that of their new host country. Assimilation may be the eventual outcome of acculturation.

Action Learning Sets

A process which involves working on real challenges, using the knowledge and skills of a small group of people combined with skilled questioning, to produce fresh ideas and reinterpret familiar concepts.

Active Listening

The process of pairing outwardly visible positive listening behaviours with positive cognitive listening practices. Active listening can help address many of the environmental, physical, cognitive, and personal barriers that exist to effective listening. The behaviours associated with active listening can also enhance informational, critical, and empathetic listening. RefOpen Library, University of Minnesota (2022)


Taking action to effect social change. This can occur in a myriad of ways and in a variety of forms. Often it is concerned with ‘how to change the world’ through social, political, economic or environmental change. This can be led by individuals but is often done collectively through social movements. RefPermanent Culture Now (2020). "What is Activism?",

Comment: See also - Employee Activism, Judicial Activism, Social Activism, Political Activism, Revolutionary Activism


A person who believes strongly in political or social change and takes part in activities such as public protests to try to make this happen. RefCambridge English Dictionary (on-line, 2022)

Comment: See also - Activism


A condition or circumstance that puts an individual or group in a favourable or superior position.


The act or process of supporting a cause or proposal: the act or process of advocating something. This can mean getting support from another person to help you express your views and wishes, and to help you stand up for your rights. Someone who helps you in this way is called your advocate.

Comment: See also - ally/allyship

Affirmative Action

Refers broadly to policies or practices that seek to redress past discrimination through favouring particular groups based only on their gender, race, sexuality, creed or nationality in areas in which such groups are underrepresented (e.g. education and employment). Such actions include adopting 'hard quotas' for minoritised groups. 

Comment: In the United Kingdom affirmative action (e.g. hiring someone simply because of their protected-group status, without regard to their performance) is illegal.
Synonyms: Positive Discrimination


Age discrimination. When someone is treated unfairly because of their actual or perceived age.

Comment: See also - discrimination, protected characteristic, equality legislation


Not having a gender. Some agender people describe it as having a 'lack of gender', while others describe themselves as being gender neutral. Agender people fall under the 'nonbinary' and 'transgender' umbrellas.

Comment: See also - gender, gender identity, nonbinary, transgender, cisgender, genderqueer, gender nonconforming
Synonyms: genderless, genderfree, genderblank, neutrois


A person who is not a member of a marginalised or disadvantaged group but who expresses or gives support to that group.


Having both male and female characteristics. May be expressed with regard to biological sex, gender identity, or gender expression.

Synonyms: unisexual, ambisexual, genderless


Anti-racism involves practices (thoughts, actions, policies, etc.) that intentionally seek to counter and eliminate harm caused by racism and create racial equity.


Hatred, discrimination, hostility, or oppression of, or against, Jewish people as a group or individuals.

Appreciative Inquiry

A strengths-based, positive approach to personal development and organisational change, used by individuals, teams, organisations, or at the societal level enabling people to move toward a positive vision for the future.


A person who does not experience sexual attraction. They may or may not experience romantic attraction.


The process of becoming similar to others by taking in and using their customs and culture. For example, an individual, family, or group may give up certain aspects of its culture in order to adapt to that of their new host country.

Comment: The assimilation of immigrants into American culture has been a constant feature of US history.



Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, or Black and Minority Ethnic

Synonyms: acculturation




Prejudice; an inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgement.

Conscious, Unconscious
There exists a plethora of cognitive biases that inform thinking, judgement and behaviour. This unit considers only a small number of biases. A more comprehensive list with definitions of cognitive biases can be found on Wikipedia. Please note there may be factual inaccuracy utilising this information source:,_designed_by_John_Manoogian_III_(jm3).jpg

Implicit Bias
Negative associations expressed automatically that people unknowingly hold; also known as unconscious or hidden bias. Many studies have indicated that implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. Notably, implicit biases have been shown to be favored above individuals’ stated commitments to equality and fairness, thereby producing behaviour that diverges from the explicit attitudes that people may profess. Inclusion/Inclusiveness Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power.


Employee Activism

Employee Activism refers to how employees, managers and leaders negotiate their response to agendas and behaviours that have an impact on relationships, priorities and processes at work. It can also be action taken by workers to speak out for or against their employers on controversial issues, such as the ways in which the company is reinforcing inequalities or causing harm to customers, employees or the environment. RefAs We Are (2021). "The rise in employee activism".

Comment: See also - Activism


Judicial Activism

How a judge approaches or is perceived to approach exercising judicial review. The term refers to scenarios in which a judge issues a ruling that overlooks legal precedents or past constitutional interpretations in favour of protecting individual rights and serving a broader social or political agenda. RefSpitzer, Elianna (2020). "What Is Judicial Activism?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020,

Comment: See also - Activism


Political activism

Involvement in the political process for the sake of promoting, impeding or raising awareness of a certain issue or set of issues, typically engagement beyond just voting, whether it be through protest, demonstration or lecture. (2020). "What is a political activist?

Positive Action

The deliberate introduction of measures or initiatives to eliminate or reduce discrimination or its ‘effects’. For example, encouraging people from demonstrably under-represented groups to apply for jobs or promotion. This may involve:

Targeted advertising of jobs. 
Using positive action statements in recruitment adverts (e.g. stating that the employer welcomes applications from a particular group that is demonstably under-represented)
Offering pre-application training where this meets a need (e.g. CV development and leadership training skills)
Offering mentoring schemes for a particular group to increase their representation at senior levels

Positive action is lawful when an employer is taking steps to counteract the disadvantages it believes people with a protected characteristic face. Any decisions taken following positive action must be made on merit.

Comment: In the UK, positive action is permitted under the Equality Act 2010 providing the need (i.e. under-representation) is demonstrable. For example, when making recruitment and promotion decisions, a candidate from a minoritised group can be favoured legally over another candidate where both candidates are of equal merit (i.e. in a 'tie-breaker' situation).

Positive Discrimination

The practice of favouring an individual who belongs to a group which has historically faced discrimination.

Synonyms: Affirmative action


Revolutionary Activism

Activism that is concerned with fundamental change of society and its major institutions. This type seeks to fundamentally change the dominant system to a new way of living and is not particularly concerned with reforms and piecemeal changes in the long term. RefPermanent Culture Now (2020). "What is activism?".

Comment: See also: Activism


Social Activism

Activism that is commonly focused on the conditions that directly impact the standards of living for those in society who are exposed to it. The promotion and guidance used to cultivate changes in business practices, business policies or the government to influence social change. (2020). "What is social activism?"

Comment: See also - Activism

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