Disabilities and the PC-Patrol

People try to rename disability as “disABILITY”, handicaps as “handiCAPABLE”, and both as “differently abled”. Of the three, the latter is the only one I don’t find utterly stupid (and borderline offensive!).

I’m sorry, but a disability is a disability, and a handicap is a handicap. If you look at what those words actually mean, and not what the average Joe thinks they mean, then they’re apt.

“Disability”; some aspect of that person is disabled, whether it be a physical or mental function. Think about a machine; it may have five functions, and one or more of them may be disabled. It just means “turned off”, “paused”, “not currently functioning”, “not functioning to full capacity”. It doesn’t mean that the machine is dumb or broken or not capable of other stuff (remember, it has multiple functions), it just means that that particular function is not available. Now think of a quadriplegic; they’re disabled. Their legs have been “turned off”. Their other functions are still active, but that part has been “disabled”. Calling it a “disABILITY” would mean that they could stand if they wanted to, but they’re choosing not to.

“Handicap”; this just means something that makes someone struggle more in a particular area to keep up. Think of a golfing handicap. I’m going to need help with this one, because I’m not familiar with golf, but it refers to the person’s average score or something. It doesn’t mean they can’t play golf, it just means they may require additional coaching or compensation (as in, using a slightly different method/modification) in order to achieve the same score as someone without a handicap, or with less of a handicap. Calling it “handiCAPABLE” means they could play better golf if they’d just TRY!

Now, differently abled, that makes sense. It means that they’re weaker in a particular area, but hey, they’re strong in THIS area. Think of the disabled guy in the wheelchair; running a marathon by foot may be out, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a genius in front of a keyboard. Or if he’s athletically-inclined, maybe he can’t RUN a marathon, but perhaps he can WHEEL it.

To me, swapping one label for another is still saying “there’s something wrong with this person”. You’re still drawing attention to the fact that they have limitations. Saying they’re “differently abled”, however, is accurate, and applies to everyone, not just people with disabilities or handicaps. The focus is on what they can do, or do well, as opposed to what they can’t do.

And don’t get me started on client vs consumer, ugh!

Enough with the political-correctness. Let’s quit focussing on which label we’d prefer to tag people with, and focus on what a person can DO, eh?

And before anyone feels the need to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about, I identify as disabled due to multiple physical, mental, and cognitive issues. I don’t feel that calling myself disabled/handicapped is derogatory, I feel I’m just stating a fact.

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2 thoughts on “Disabilities and the PC-Patrol

  1. One of the big political correctness issues I’ve come across that’s related to this is person-first language. I think I wrote about it a while ago. Anyway, I just think it’s stupid to try to change what people think/feel by telling them to use different words that aren’t actually any better. Change the way they think first, and the language will follow. Getting someone to call me by a different term isn’t going to make them think more of me, but if they think more of me, they won’t want to use derogatory terms.
    I think what I just typed makes sense…

    • KittyChile says:

      That makes perfect sense, and is exactly what I’m getting at; substituting one term for another doesn’t achieve anything, and the replacement terms are no better than – or perhaps actually worse than – those they’re replacing.

      I don’t agree with labels in general, but a short-hand neutral description used as a summary isn’t derogatory. Even terms like “retarded” aren’t actually derogatory unless used that way; retarded simply means “stunted, underdeveloped”. A tree can be retarded by lack of water, a fire can be retarded by use of an extinguisher, and a person’s mental/physical development can be retarded in one or more areas, such as “retarded emotional development”. It’s only because the terms have been used in a derogatory manner that anyone thinks anything of them at all. The key to that is education about what a word means, not changing to another term that will likewise come to mean something derogatory if the underlying meaning isn’t understood.

      We’re on the same page 🙂

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