The tag is currently synonymised with (see the full list of synonyms for health-issues). Based on the list of tag synonyms, this synonym was created on 22 June 2019, so it doesn't look like this was a direct consequence of What to do with the mental-health tag from June 2015.

Both the tag synonymisation and some of the proposals in the June 2015 question appear to be based on a model of disability that treats disability as (1) primarily a medical issue and (2) a problem that belongs to the individual. In my area of work—digital accessibility—and in disability studies this is known as the medical model of disability. Based on the medical model, disability requires a "cure" or, if that is not feasible, adjustment or behavioural change in the individual as a surrogate "cure".

This model is now outdated and has been replaced with the social model of disability, which does not deny the impact of the impairment but does not seek to change the person either. According to the social model, "disability" refers "to the restrictions caused by society when it does not give equivalent attention and accommodation to the needs of individuals with impairments" (Wikipedia), to " the result of the interaction between people living with impairments and an environment filled with physical, attitudinal, communication and social barriers" (People with Disability Australia) or to "a socially created problem and a matter of the full integration of individuals into society" (Disabled World). (The medical and the social models are by no means the two only models of disability, but I hope that we can handle this tagging question without additional disability theory.)

What I am asking by requesting to undo the synonymisation between and is for Academia SE to leave behind the outdated medical model of disability. (I do not wish to imply that Academia SE defends or promotes the medical model, only that is seems to be implicit in these tag synonyms.)

This would mean that, for example, the following questions would no longer be tagged but :

(This list is not intended to be exhaustive. There are a number of questions that are still tagged even though they were submitted after 22 June 2019, e.g. Does FERPA require parental notification of disability assessment? .)

Desynonymising is not a perfect solution. Strictly speaking, some of the above question would be more appropriately tagged , but that tag does not exist on this site and creating it might be harder to achieve here.

Update 05.09.2020: On second thought, or (the latter is a term used by the CDC in the USA) may be a better tag than . It would definitely work well for questions such as How do conferences work for deaf scientists?, Teaching visual tools for visually impaired students? and Oral Defense for Hearing Impaired Student.

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    I like moving to "accessibility" anyway ... would synonymizing both to that still be problematic? I confess I'm not understanding the nuance here completely after a couple of reads. But thanks for bringing it up! Sep 4, 2020 at 20:15
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    @AzorAhai--hehim accessibility would be the best fit for questions such as "How do conferences work for deaf scientists?", "Teaching visual tools for visually impaired students?" and "Oral Defense for Hearing Impaired Student"; these questions are about integrating persons with specific impairments, not about the impairments as such. Synonymizing accessibilitywith disability would be less objectionable than the current situation.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 4, 2020 at 21:02
  • Well, yes, since questions about the impairments themselves would off-topic, no? Sep 4, 2020 at 21:07
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    @AzorAhai--hehim Which seems to support the argument that disability is a poor choice for a tag name...
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 4, 2020 at 21:09
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    I'm not sure about that, but it's not that important, I don't think. Sep 4, 2020 at 21:11
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    Oh that's why my changing that tag kept reverting for no apparent reason. Yes, this is a terrible synonym. Sep 5, 2020 at 0:48
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    I do not think inclusion is a good tag for this application. It's too vague - is it about including first-generation students, is it about including women in a men-dominated field? It suggests to me "making people feel welcome" which is not the same as "how to help people physical access X." Sep 5, 2020 at 23:42
  • @AzorAhai--hehim Actually, "How to help people with physical access" is basically, "How to not exclude people through physical access barriers" in disguise. And the issues you mention are, in fact, all related.
    – user96809
    Sep 6, 2020 at 23:26
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. Okay, sure, but someone who is an expert in building inclusive learning environments is not an expert in helping someone with physical or mental disabilities navigate the university system. So when thinking of the tag as "helping experts find questions they can answer," I don't think it's as good as it could be. Sep 6, 2020 at 23:33
  • It's like how we have [sexual-misconduct] and [personal-misconduct] instead of just [misconduct] Sep 6, 2020 at 23:34
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    @AzorAhai--hehim I see your point about inclusion, so I have added disability-inclusion as an alternative.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 6, 2020 at 23:46
  • @Tsundoku Works for me. I would suggest though, that as a meta question, you make your suggested tags answers so we can vote on them; right now it's not clear what a vote up on this question means, does it mean "this is a valid concern," "accessiblity is a good tag," or "disability-inclusion is a good tag." Sep 6, 2020 at 23:48
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    Coming from a US perspective, the "Americans with Disabilities Act" is a quite central piece of legislation that adds the "disability" label to a lot of things. I'm sympathetic to reframing the way we talk about disability, but it remains true that at US universities you will probably encounter the "disability office" rather than the "accessibility office" or "inclusion office" (and the latter is more likely to refer to racial inclusion, non-native English speakers, religious minorities, etc).
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Sep 8, 2020 at 16:15
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    @BryanKrause I have suggested the term disability-inclusion in a separate answer. I prefer it over accessibility in spite my awareness of the ADA, because accessiblity usually refers to "to the design of products, devices, services, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities", i.e. technical aspects, whereas questions related to disability inclusion on Academia SE focus on social aspects rather than strictly technical ones.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 8, 2020 at 19:43
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    As someone with a disability, I find the social model of disability incredibly patronising and dehumanising. My disability is very much a health issue, and I'm desperate for a cure. To suggest that my disability is not a health issue and is a socially-created condition is extremely insulting and complete BS on so many levels. YMMV Sep 13, 2020 at 18:28

3 Answers 3


While I do see the problem here, I think that having two separate tags does not really solve it while creating more problems:

  • By the nature of our site, we almost exclusively focus on the social aspect anyway. For the questions we get, it mostly does not matter whether something is a disability or a health issue (wherever one draws the line between the two). To give a somewhat unrealistic, but illustrative example, whether somebody cannot access a lecture hall because of a broken leg or a permanent paralysis hardly affects our approach to the problem. Indeed, sometimes the answer to a question is that some health issue qualifies as a disability and thus grants certain rights.

  • The line between a permanent disability and temporary health issue is indisputably blurry, or one might say that one thing can be a disability or a health issue depending whether you view it from a social or medical point of view (which is not so different from your outline).

  • Again by the nature of our site, most questions in are about disabilities or something that may be one. In fact, in a brief search I couldn’t even find a single question which I would consider correctly tagged , but which was clearly not about disabilities.

As a consequence, I expect that splitting the tag as proposed would lead to users being confused as to which tag they should use and users not finding existing questions that help them. If we ignore everything related to the name of the tag for a second, what do we gain from splitting?

Instead, I suggest that we think about a better name for the main tag (i.e., the synonym target). This is obviously not an easy choice as one has to consider amongst others:

  • Some choices may cause people refraining from using the tag altogether due to social stigma, e.g., .

  • Some choices may cause the undesirable associations you describe, e.g., . (Though I am somewhat surprised by that since at least to me health issue does not imply that something requires cure or similar – not that I dispute that others have this association.)

Here, I would like to play the ball back to you, the expert. But even if there should be no good and concise name for this, I would refrain from splitting the tag. In that case, I would consider even a super-clunky name like the lesser evil.

  • [{physical,mental}-{accommodations,accessibility}]? Sep 4, 2020 at 20:14
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    I prefer the asker's proposal. Not having the tag seems the most stigmatizing thing. If it's both a disability and a health issue, both tags can be used. Sep 5, 2020 at 7:00
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    @AnonymousPhysicist: If it's both a disability and a health issue, both tags can be used. – Then where would you draw the line between the two and how can we ensure that users draw it and we do not end up with a lot of badly tagged questions? Are there any questions where one of the two tags clearly does not apply? After all, all disabilities are related to health issues, even if though I see the point that viewing them from this angle is undesirable.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 5, 2020 at 7:13
  • "a lot of badly tagged questions?" I don't think that's a real problem that needs solving. Sep 5, 2020 at 8:27
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    "Are there any questions where one of the two tags clearly does not apply? After all, all disabilities are related to health issues," Tsundoku gave a very clear explanation for why that attitude is not appropriate for this site. You should follow Tsundoku's advice. It's trivial to make a question about health issues that is not about disability; maybe "How does sick leave for for graduate students?" Sep 5, 2020 at 8:30
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    @AnonymousPhysicist: "a lot of badly tagged questions?" I don't think that's a real problem that needs solving – How is this not a problem? Tags exist for finding content and similar. If badly tagged questions do not concern you, why not just delete all the tags in question? — Tsundoku gave a very clear explanation for why that attitude is not appropriate for this site. – Tsundoku’s argument is that we should not primarily focus on disabilities as a health issue that can be cured or similar, which I do not object to. However, that does not mean that disabilities are not related to health.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 5, 2020 at 8:44
  • @AnonymousPhysicist: It's trivial to make a question about health issues that is not about disability; maybe "How does sick leave for for graduate students?" – Sure, but that’s not my point. My point is that we rarely or never get such questions.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 5, 2020 at 8:48
  • I'd have no problem with eliminating tags entirely. Sep 5, 2020 at 9:53
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    @AnonymousPhysicist The fact that you'd eliminate tags entirely, doesn't mean that others wouldn't find them useful. Sep 5, 2020 at 15:06
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    accomodating-and-handling-health-issues-and-disabilities? I'd rather not lump disability/impairment together with health issues. For questions about how to integrate students or researchers with a disability, inclusion sounds like a better option.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 5, 2020 at 21:03
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    @Tsundoku: I like inclusion as well. I will try to go through some questions in the tag systematically to see whether this fits everything or whether some other major subcategories come up (which then may get their own tag or give us some insight on how to proceed).
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 5, 2020 at 22:08
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    Is there a problem with using the tag accessiblity? AFAIK that's the standard term for this kind of thing, for example your phone has a menu called 'accessibility settings'.
    – BrtH
    Sep 7, 2020 at 9:07
  • @BrtH: Well, to begin with it is not what is typically used for accomodation of psychiatric disabilities, which make up a considerable amount of what’s in the tag. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do the thorough assessment of the tag I wanted to do yet, so I cannot be any more detailed on this.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 7, 2020 at 11:09
  • @BrtH "accessibility" is less standard outside the US, in my experience. Sep 10, 2020 at 4:08
  • @AnonymousPhysicist I am outside the US. 'Toegankelijkheid' is the standard term in Dutch. However, it's not that I have a very strong opinion about this, I was more wondering why people are making it so difficult for themselves if a standard term already exists.
    – BrtH
    Sep 10, 2020 at 7:45

To have some data to help deciding, I went through a bunch of questions in the current that . I excluded only closed questions. I categorised the questions along three axes:

  • Mental (depression, ADHD, etc.) vs. physical (broken leg, cancer, blindness, etc.):

    • 28 questions were about mental issues.
    • 6 questions were about physical issues.
    • 4 questions did not specify anything.

    I want to mention that I think the distinction does not affect the answer for many of these questions, even when accounting for the stigma of mental issues. (Though I did not do a statistics on that.)

  • Disabilities and chronic diseases vs. short-term issues. I went for the former when in doubt, which mostly applied to mental-health issues.

    • 28 questions were about disabilities or chronic diseases.
    • 3 questions were clearly not about disabilities.
    • 5 questions were about preventing health problems, mostly psychohygiene.
    • For 2 questions it was completely unclear.
  • Accommodation and handling bad performances vs. other issues.

    • 21 questions were about accommodation and handling bad performance.
    • 12 questions were clearly about something else (including the 5 questions about preventing health problems).
    • 5 questions were not clear about this on account of broadness (“How do you handle …?”).

Since Azor Ahai -- he him suggested that I should post an alternative tag as an answer, here is a suggestion: introduce the tag for (suggested tag wiki excerpt)

Questions about the inclusion of people with disabilities in higher education. These questions can cover both social practices and technological challenges, and can apply to either students or teaching staff.

This should be broad enough to cover all the examples listed in my question above.

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    This should be broad enough to cover all the examples listed in my question above. – And what do we do with the rest of questions in that tag? Does this tag fit? If not, what does fit and is splitting along this line a good idea?
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 7, 2020 at 12:38
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    Maybe add another tag, [qualified-disability] for people who have received certification from the disability office? So a prof might ask about [disability-inclusion] when preparing colorblind slides, but a student could ask about boht. Sep 7, 2020 at 16:16
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    @AzorAhai: Maybe add another tag, [qualified-disability] for people who have received certification from the disability office? – This sounds like a horrible line to draw: “Your disability is not qualified; you must not use this tag.” Moreover, this distinction is irrelevant for a considerable amount of questions.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 8, 2020 at 8:25
  • @Wrzlprmft True, it does have a bad ring. Sep 8, 2020 at 14:13

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