2 What does it mean to be disabled?
2.3 Disability-related terminology
The language that we use to talk about disability is quite problematic, as the following quote shows.
The language we use to talk about disability plays an extremely important part in the way society views disabled people. This is often a confusing area since people who are not disabled themselves feel worried about offending one particular group of people by using the wrong term and the terminology adopted by disabled people often changes. There is not universal agreement on how to describe disabled people since disabled people themselves often disagree on the ‘best’ term.
The influence of the social model of disability has resulted in a change in the terminology used in relation to disability. The ‘deprecated terms’ are discouraged because they reflect the medical model's view that the ‘problems’ associated with disability stem from functional limitations. The ‘preferred terms’ reflect the view of the social model that it is society that disables people with impairments. Some deprecated and preferred terms are summarised in Table 1.
Table 1: Deprecated and preferred disability-related terms
|Deprecated term||Rationale||Preferred term|
|The disabled||There is no such thing as the disabled; lumping everyone together in this way is felt by many to take away their individuality.||Disabled people|
|The blind||As above.||Visually impaired people/blind people|
|People with disabilities||Implies the disability ‘belongs’ to the disabled person||Disabled people|
|Handicapped Cripple||Conjures images of disabled people begging or being ‘cap in hand’||Disabled person/disabled people|
|Invalid||Literally means ‘not valid’||Disabled person|
|Able bodied||Suggests that all disabilities are physical and ignores unseen disabilities, and that disabled people are not able||Non-disabled|
|Afflicted with … Victim of … Crippled by …||Conveys a tragic or negative view about disability||Has… [condition]|
|Suffering from …||Confuses disability with illness and also implies that a disability may be a personal burden||Has…[condition]|
|Wheelchair bound||People are not tied into their wheelchairs. A wheelchair offers the freedom to move around and is a valuable tool.||Wheelchair user|
|Deaf and dumb||Phrase is demeaning and inaccurate; many deaf people use sign language to communicate and dumb implies that someone is stupid.||Hearing-impaired person Hard-of-hearing person Deaf person Sign language user|
Disabled People and Terminology, Manchester City Council website.
Source: Adapted from Disabled People and Terminology. Then click on the ‘Disability Discrimination Act’ (accessed on 27 November 2006).
Rewrite the following, avoiding the use of deprecated terms:
It is estimated that 1 in 4 people are disabled or know a disabled adult in their immediate circle. This is consistent with my own experience: I suffer from kerataconus, my mother-in-law is crippled with arthritis so that she is wheelchair bound, and my father-in-law suffers both from being deaf as a post and blind as a bat. Luckily, we are all cheerful and this is what keeps us going.
I think the second sentence may be better written thus:
This is consistent with my own experience: I have kerataconus, my mother-in-law has arthritis so that she is a wheelchair user, and my father-in-law has both hearing and visual impairments.