need help


Find CCDC programs to help assist in advocating for you or someone you know with a disability.



Keep up to date with disability rights activities you care about. Choose a few topics or sign up for all of them!



Find the most common issues people with disabilities face and how CCDC can help.


Glossary of Equity Terms — Office of Health Equity


In an effort to provide common language, the Office of Health Equity has compiled a list of terms relevant to the work and movement of advancing equity. Take note that evolving language is a positive sign in social justice movements. To that end, this list will be modified on an ongoing basis.

If a term exists that you’d like to further explore or you don’t quite agree with, we encourage you to browse the internet for additional articles, blogs, etc. on the topic. Just as language evolves over time, our opinions and beliefs may also evolve.


Ableism: The discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. It is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require “fixing” and defines people by their disability. Like racism and sexism, ableism classifies entire groups of people as “less than,” and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations of people with disabilities.
*Adapted from Access Living

Ally: Someone from a dominant group (who experiences unearned access and/or power) who acts in support of non-dominant group members. Allies practice genuine allyship. That is, they take action, reflect on their own thinking and beliefs, seek out learning opportunities, take initiative in interpersonal relations, and work to create systems of equity.

Anti-Racism: Some form of focused and sustained action, which includes inter-cultural, inter-faith, multi-lingual and inter-abled (i.e., differently abled) communities with the intent to change a system or an institutional policy, practice, or procedure which has racist effects.

*Adapted from the Anti-Racism Digital Library

BIPOC: Acronym for Black, Indigenous People, and People of Color; the term is used to acknowledge that Indigenous and Black people have been most impacted by whiteness, both historically and in the present day. This shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context.

*Adapted from The BIPOC Project

Black liberation movement: The specific movements in the U.S. that have focused on addressing the oppression of Black people, including the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, and the current Black Lives Matter movement.

*Adapted from Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams, Lama Rod Owens and Jasmine Syedullah

Cisgender: A person whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth.

Climate Justice: The acknowledgement that communities of color, low-income neighborhoods, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis as a result of systemic racism and class discrimination both here and abroad. Climate justice supports a just transition for communities and workers away from a fossil fuel economy. It focuses on making the necessary systemic changes to address the unequal environmental burdens on these communities as they are forced to adapt to a changing climate.

*Adapted from the Climate Justice Alliance

Community: Groups of people who are impacted by policies and programs. In the context of equity work, “community” refers to people who have historically been left out of the decision-making process. A community is not necessarily limited by geographic boundaries.

Community Engagement: A two-way exchange of information, ideas and resources that offers opportunities for communities to exercise power in decision-making. It considers the diversity of communities, including culture and race, and creates an inclusive and accessible process.

Covering: When members of marginalized groups downplay their unique identities for fear of drawing unwanted attention or making others uncomfortable.

Decolonization: The long-term process of unsettling bureaucratic, cultural, linguistic and psychological colonial power. Decolonization is not a metaphor for other social justice objectives, and most closely relates to the return of specific lands and resources to specific Indigenous peoples. Decolonization also refers to valuing Indigneous worldviews and dismantling systems and ideologies that uphold settler-colonial supremacy.

Disparities: Measurable differences among groups of people. Inequities cause disparities.

Displacement: A process by which families involuntarily have to move, generally to a new neighborhood or city, because they can no longer afford the high costs of new development. Oftentimes, families affected by displacement are low-income families and/or families of color who may have lived in a neighborhood for generations. In an international context, the term refers to the most vulnerable populations of a nation fleeing to become refugees as a result of political instability, persecution, violence, or human rights violations.

Diversity: A description of differences usually based on identities such as race, gender, ability, etc. Diversity ≠ Equity and does not always happen intentionally.

Dominant Identity: Category of a social identity that automatically provides access to power, opportunity, and privilege.

*Adapted from The Complexity of Identity: “Who Am I?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Environmental Justice: The principle that all people and communities have a right to live, work, and play in a safe and healthy environment. Environmental justice recognizes that, due to racism and class discrimination, communities of color and low-income neighborhoods are the most likely to be disproportionately harmed by toxic chemicals, exposures, economic injustices, and negative land uses, and the least likely to benefit from efforts to improve the environment.

*Adapted from the Climate Justice Alliance

Equality: Assures everyone is treated the same regardless of the starting point or context. Equality ≠ Equity.

Equity: When everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, has the opportunity to thrive. This requires eliminating barriers like poverty and repairing injustices in systems such as education, health, criminal justice and transportation.

Forms of community organizing:

  • Grassroots: A movement where community members self-organize to take action on an issue on behalf of their community.
  • Grasstops: A movement where an individual or organization that has working relationships with people in positions of power represents the interests of a community and advocates on their behalf.
  • Astroturf: An attempt by organizations to mask their messaging to make it seem as if it originated from a grassroots or grasstops organization. The messaging is typically a symbolic gesture that isn’t followed up with substantial action.

Gentrification: The process of supposedly improving a neighborhood through new development such as food stores, bike lanes, and health services, which may lead to the displacement of long-time residents.

Implicit Bias: Attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions. People are usually unaware of their own biases because they operate at the subconscious level.

Inclusion: What you do with diversity to ensure individuals have the opportunity to fully participate in decision-making processes. Intentionally promotes a sense of belonging where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized and leverages abilities, unique qualities and perspectives of individuals.

Indigenous: Refers to a distinct pre-colonial culture, society, or people. It’s important to note that “Indigenous” is capitalized to identify unique, ethnic communities with political representation. There are Indigenous people all over the world, but in most contexts “Indigenous” should be used to reference the Indigenous people of a specific land or territory. Indigenous is more than an ethnic identifier; it is connected to sovereignty and nationhood and is not a subcategory within other identities.

*Adapted from The Native American Journalists Association Style Guide and resources from the Meztli Project

Individualistic versus systemic framing: In communications, individualistic framing refers to the interpretation of outcomes as a result of individual will and initiative while systemic framing focuses on root causes and the context in which people live. Individualistic framing fails to recognize the social determinants of health and behavior and contributes to implicit bias.

*Adapted from RaceForward

Inequities: When systems, policies, and practices create less opportunity between groups that are systemic, avoidable and unjust. These could be in health, education, housing, criminal justice, etc. and are based on factors like gender, race, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation or immigration status.

Intersectionality: The compounding effects of discrimination for individuals and communities who have more than one social identity that is oppressed on the basis of gender, race, class, age, ability, religious status, sexual identity, education level, language, etc. These intersecting identities lead to greater inequities (e.g., Native American women or white gay men with disabililties).

Language Inclusivity: Avoiding expressions that discriminate or show bias against groups of people based on race, gender or socioeconomic status. It is the intentional use of impartial speaking and writing that resonates with audiences of diverse backgrounds.

*Adapted from How to Use & Promote Inclusive Language at Your Organization by Caroline Forsey

Language Justice: An approach that creates inclusive, multilingual spaces in which all languages are honored equally and speakers of different languages benefit from sharing with one another.

Latinx: A gender-neutral, non-binary, inclusive way of referring to the ethnic and racial identity of Latin Americans (and their descendants) that resists defaulting to the masculine form of the word. The “x” does not imply a specific gender – as would the ‘o’ (masculine) or the ‘a’ (feminine) for nouns in Spanish and Portuguese. It is used to disrupt the grammatical binary that is inherent in these Romance languages.

*Adapted from What Does Latinx Mean, Exactly? By Irina Gonzalez

LGBTQ+: An acronym for individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, queer (or questioning), as well as individuals with non-conforming gender identities (i.e., genderqueer) and sexual orientations (e.g., asexual, pansexual).

Marginalized Identity: Category of social identity that is likely to experience oppression or marginalization in mainstream society.

*Adapted from The Complexity of Identity: “Who Am I?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Microaffirmations: Brief or casual comments/exchanges, verbal and non-verbal, that send affirming and inclusive messages to individuals from a marginalized or oppressed group in order to foster healthy relationships.

Microaggressions: Brief or casual comments/exchanges, verbal and non-verbal, that send degrading messages to individuals because of their membership in any marginalized or oppressed group.

Oppression: Unjustly preventing an individual or community from having the same level of opportunity to thrive as more privileged groups. It’s important to note that, colloquially, the term is usually only used to describe the most severe forms of subjugation (e.g., slavery), but in equity work the term refers more broadly to all forms of unjust deprivation.

Person of Color: A person who is not white or of European heritage.

Power: Our ability, as individuals and as communities, to produce an intended effect. Power manifests in both positive and negative ways and shows up formally and informally.

Redlining: A practice by the Federal Housing Administration from the 1930s-70s in which neighborhoods where people of color lived were deemed too undesirable and “risky” for housing development. Banks also denied home loans to people of color who sought to move to more desirable neighborhoods. As a result, people of color could not buy homes or live where they wanted, and developers were prevented from improving neighborhoods where people of color lived. While the practice is now illegal, its legacy has meant that most people of color have been excluded from acquiring generational wealth.

Social Determinants of Health: The social and economic factors that determine where we live, work, play, and pray. These factors demonstrate that one’s health is not merely a result of individual behavior, but largely due to barriers in systems and institutions that prevent oppressed groups from thriving.

Structural racism: When our institutions, such as housing, education and transportation, collectively create systems and policies that work better for white people than for people of color. Structural racism limits opportunities for some, but contributes to poor outcomes for all. Other forms of structural discrimination may relate to classicism, ableism, heterosexism, etc.

The three levels of racism:

  • Interpersonal racism: Prejudiced assumptions about the abilities, motives, and intents of others by race that lead to discriminatory actions based on those assumptions.
  • Institutional racism: Discriminatory policies and systems that create differential access to the goods, services, and opportunities of society by race.
  • Internalized racism: The implicit acceptance by stigmatized “races” of the negative assumptions about their own abilities and intrinsic worth.

*Adapted from Levels of Racism: A Theoretical Framework and a Gardener’s Tale by Dr Camara Jones

Thrive: When a person has the opportunity to make healthy choices, afford food and housing, have good jobs that can sustain a family, attend quality schools for better education, and fulfil their potential.

Tokenism: The practice of making only a symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of marginalized groups, especially by making use of a small number of people to represent the entirety of that group and to give the appearance of racial or sexual inclusion.

Transactional vs transformational work

  • Transactional: Solutions “transact” with institutions to get a short term gain, but leave the existing structure in place. Transactional work tends to be: Issue-based efforts and helps individuals negotiate existing structures.
  • Transformational: Solutions alter the ways institutions operate, thereby shifting cultural values and political will to create equity. Transformational work tends to be: Policy initiatives that cross multiple institutions and shifts efforts towards proactive solutions.

*Adapted from Advancing Racial Equity and Transforming Government by the Government Alliance on Race and Equity

Transgender: A person whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth.

Tribal Sovereignty: Tribal Sovereignty is the right of Native American Tribes to govern themselves. Sovereignty rights are often, but not always, legally recognized by the federal government. Specifically, the US Constitution recognizes that Tribes are distinct governments and they generally have the same powers as federal and state governments to regulate their internal affairs. Importantly, Tribal Sovereignty is not delegated by the US government; it can be affirmed or infringed upon by federal and state governments, but it is inherent to Tribal nations.

Undocumented: Refers to immigrants and refugees who do not hold any official status within the country they reside in. The term is used almost exclusively in a negative context to convey the idea that a person can be deemed “illegal” in order to exclude them from the national community and the privileges thereof.

White Exceptionalism: The belief held by some white allies that they are the exception to white racism even though they fail to address the implicit ways in which they perpetuate white supremacy. These individuals are often more interested in not seeming racist than actually improving the lives of people of color. This is sometimes referred to as fakequity (Erin Okono).

*Adapted from Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad

White fragility: Discomfort and defensiveness, often triggered by feelings of fear or guilt, on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice.

White Supremacy: A historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of nations and people of color by white peoples of European descent for the purpose of establishing, maintaining, and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.

*Adapted from Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams, Lama Rod Owens and Jasmine Syedullah



The grammar of race: Capitalizing “Black”
When referring to a person or community, “Black” is capitalized to convey a shared sense of history and identity among people in the African diaspora and within Africa. This puts the term on equal racial, ethnic, and cultural footing as terms like Latinx, Asian American, American Indians & Alaska Natives, etc.

While some publications have also chosen to capitalize “white”, many others have taken a stance against this on the principle of equity. Capitalizing “white” could be seen as a symbolic nod to white supremacy, and it’s important to note that the majority of white Americans do not see themselves as a collective ethnic group the same way that Black Americans do.

Important Notice
CCDC’s employees and/or volunteers are NOT acting as your attorney. Responses you receive via electronic mail, phone, or in any other manner DO NOT create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between you and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), or any employee of, or other person associated with, CCDC. The only way an attorney-client relationship is established is if you have a signed retainer agreement with one of the CCDC Legal Program attorneys.

Information received from CCDC’s employees or volunteers, or from this site, should NOT be considered a substitute for the advice of a lawyer. DOES NOT provide any legal advice, and you should consult with your own lawyer for legal advice. This website is a general service that provides information over the internet. The information contained on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice to be applied to any specific factual situation.

Verified by ExactMetrics
A+ A-