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.  https://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/word-matterswords-matter/


3 responses to “DISability Word Matters

  1. Pingback: Kudos: HLN Coverage of Murder and Abuse of Children With Dis-abilities | In Bed With Frida Kahlo

  2. Yes words matter. In small town Virginia we are dissed to disappear, bullied out of our homes or else live alone in fear. This is no way to live. Yet after 11 years of fighting the attitudes you so aptly described the email arrives from those in power, we will not help. Am so tired, yet you give a small bit of hope to one more life. That you Emma!

  3. Pingback: Freedom for Gaza : The Thing About Waves Is They Keep on Coming « KADAITCHA

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