There are many words and terms used to describe disabled people and disability. Many people argue over which are the correct ones to use. Does it really matter?
Well, disabled people believe that one of the first ways to take control over our lives is by using words, which we want to be described by, and not what others call us. Many words used to describe disabled people are very old-fashioned and conjure up bad images of us as being helpless and unable to make our own decisions.
For example, we are sometimes described as being ‘Cripples’ or ‘Invalids’. The word ‘invalid’ also describes things, which have no use such as an ‘invalid passport’. As for ‘cripple’, it is often used in papers or on television to create sad images, e.g. “helpless cripple”, or “crippled with pain”. Disabled people do not like these words as they don’t portray us in a very positive light.
Another word used to describe us by many professionals “Handicapped”. Again disabled people don’t like this as it refers to disadvantage and doesn’t particularly describe disability.
What about ‘Special’ as in ‘Special Needs’, ‘Special Transport’, etc.? Well, this describes putting disabled people in different schools, on different buses and so on because the facilities that non-disabled people use are often not accessible for disabled people. It can mean that decisions are made for us that we shouldn’t do the same things that non-disabled people do. This phrase is therefore not used by disabled people as by putting us in this category we are missed out of the activities that thereat of society are doing.
So how can we describe ourselves...? How??? Still trying to find it……And the answer is - Disabled people recognize that we have parts of our bodies, which may not work properly, e.g. we might not be able to see or hear, or may have some type of medical condition. This we describe as ‘our impairment’. It is not our impairment, which stops us from taking part in all society’s activities.
So please think about this situation:
1. It is not a wheelchair-user’s fault that they cannot get into a building which has steps at the entrance. It is the fault of the design of the building. If a ramp was built the person would be able to get into the building and use its facilities, (as long as its facilities were also accessible to disabled people)!
2. It is not the disabled person’s fault that somebody stares at them because they look different. It is the fault of the person doing the staring that they don’t know anything about disability and how disabled people can lead normal lives.Therefore by describing ourselves as ‘Disabled People’, because we are disabled by society - it is society which won’t let us join in, not our individual impairments