Monthly Archives: February 2017

DISability Word Matters


This post is under constant construction (and deconstruction) as nuanced language is needed to define experiences and identities as our perceptions shift and change. This is a rewrite of a post from many years ago, for example.)

DISabled (formerly Dis-abled): One who has a non-conforming body or mind, that others are able to dis  without fear of social consequence. she is dis-abled.

DISability (formerly Dis-ability): the ability to be dissed without fear of any social consequence for the offender due to a due to a physical, cognitive or emotional non-conformity. she has a dis-ability.

I capitalize and emphasize “DIS” in order to begin to deconstruct the way we think about DISability. To begin to look at it as something that society imposes on a person or a group of people, not a condition inherent in that person or group. Derivatives would include: DISmiss, DISparage, DISrespect, DIScourage, etc.

ENabled: the opposite of DISabled. Someone who has those qualities, characteristics, identities, capacities that are considered favored and are accommodated without consideration. People who don’t use wheelchairs for example, don’t consider having chairs provided for them at gatherings or events, as a special accommodation to their particular needs. Public staircases, maintained at public expenses, or any other public accommodation that is routinely provided to them without special consideration isn’t considered, is accepted as a norm, while those accommodations for people who are DISabled are seen as burdensome or at best, special and exceptional.

Medical Model of DISabilty—the idea that the person has a condition that needs fixing, changing or curing and that any problem the person has with society is due to their own condition or impairment.

Social model of DISability–  Distinguishes between impairment (the condition) and DISability—social exclusion.  For example, I am totally capable of participating in conferences, classes, and forums,  as a speaker,  an audience member, a student and as one of the organizers. But if there were steps (a social/physical construct) into the facility, I would be prevented from attending. It is not my impairment that would prevent my participation, but rather, the social construct of stairs, a decision that architecture takes priority over diversity.

PWD– Person with a DISability.

PWOD-Person without a DISability. I don’t like the term able bodies, because it implies that dis-ability has to do with impairment, and not social exclusion. It also ignores mental and cognitive dis-abilities.

Acceptable Marginalities: Words and phrases that contribute to the marginalization of PWDs:  Retard Stupid Schizo Crazy Nuts Idiot Dumb Deaf  (turn a deaf ear) Blind (the justices were blind to the issues raised in the case.) Lame

These terms are used quite freely to describe and insult people who are not PWDs. The use of these terms assumes and perpetuates the marginalization and the acceptability of marginalization of PWDs. Example of similar types of marginalizing language are “That’s so gay.” Or the use of the term black, to denote something bad—black magic, black idea, black mood, black humor, black mark, black sheep, as well as the way men will call each other girls or ladies when insinuating that their friends aren’t man enough.  Words matter or we wouldn’t use them.

Field Tested Rules for Crrpls

Rules for crrpls: do not ever ever ever ever ever imply that DISability rights is part of the larger struggle for universal human rights, against racism, sexism, gender justice and class power.

Rules for crrpls:  Don’t impose yourself on real social justice movements, attempt to infuse DISability rights into discussions of marginalization, or insist, provide suggestions or even resources that would enhance DISability access in the larger human rights struggle.

Rules for crrpls: Keep your political activism limited to organizations that focus on DISability rights and issues of access that don’t interfere with real social justice work, even if and when those organizations exclude you either because they are run by nonDISfolx, white folx, people with social and economic capital or a professionalized staff not interested in grassroots organizing.

rules for crrpls: When people try to help you, always be grateful. Never contradict them or try to explain what you really need. This will hurt their feelings (enrage them). They’re really doing their best (trying to make themselves feel good at your expense), and it’s not like you deserve to actually have a say in your agency, body autonomy or full inclusion.

rules for crrpls: Do not get offended when people make fun of your health condition or physical or emotional characteristics. Certainly don’t interrupt their fun by pointing out the arrogance, bigotry and entitlement inherent in making fun of people’s afflictions and certainly DON’T turn the tables by making fun of them, when they give you that tired excuse “we’re just kidding, lighten up.” When they say, “anything goes” that doesn’t REALLY mean that you can make THEIR entitled asses the butt of your jokes.

Rules for crrpls:  Don’t ever assert that Disability rights has any place in the larger struggle for social justice and human rights. these people are working hard enough for social justice to have to find time and resources to include your sorry ass.

Rules for crrpls:  Appear grateful and upbeat at all times, and if you can, provide material for the inspiration of people without DISabilities.– You know: paint with your feet, walk on your hands, sing out of your ass– stuff like that. They love that shit.

Rules for crrpls:  Never appear more capable than someone without a DISability. This embarrasses them and interferes with their entitled sense of superiority. There’s nothing worse than appearing less capable than someone already labeled incapacitated.

Rules for crrpls:  Do not discuss your DISability in public. Discussion of DISability is the purview of those who do not have DISabilities, so they can appear magnanimous and generous.

rules for crrpls: Do not say “excuse me” if someone is blocking your way and is deep in conversation. Wait patiently until they are finished. Also, do not attempt to go around them, because they might bump into you and this would startle them.

Rules for crrpls: Don’t ask if an event that is open to the public or that you’ve been invited to, is ACTUALLY accessible. this is rude, as it puts the host on the spot and risks causing them embarrassment.

Rules for crrpls:  Don’t show up to an event that isn’t accessible. This too may lead to the embarrassment of the host. You should magically know with your other hyper sensitive enhanced sensory abilities, if an event is accessible or not.

Got any  more? Leave them in the comments…..