Some Thoughts on Language & Defining Disability

 

Some Thoughts on Language

Is it okay to say disabled person, or should we always say person with a disability?

Disability or disabled are the preferred words in North America right now, but how those words are used depends on who is doing the talking (or writing).

Some people prefer to always put the person first – so a blind woman would always be referred to as a woman who is blind, and disabled people would always be referred to as people with disabilities. Other people think of the word disabled as a word used to describe them, just like brown-haired, fashionable, or funny. Some people prefer calling themselves disabled over a “person with a disability,” because they don’t think of their disability as being something to avoid or be afraid of.

There are no rules here at Ready, Sexy, Able about only using people-first language to talk about people’s disabilities. Robin doesn’t argue with the idea of making sure people with disabilities are always thought of and treated equally, with respect and care, but she doesn’t think that using person-first language to refer to disabled people has made much of a difference in how we’re perceived or treated. disabled people are still frequently still treated like objects to be talked about, not to; children to be coddled; or circus curiosities.

And besides, putting the person first is sometimes grammatically awkward.

Many advocates and writers are not in love with the idea of person-first language. Other arguments against this way of speaking and writing include: that it ignores or erases what some people find is an important part of their identity, thatrequiring that we use one kind of language doesn’t acknowledge or respect the differing ways people want to be referred to, and that using person-first language might just be trying too hard.

Here at Ready, Sexy, Able we’ll use the terms “people with disabilities” and “disabled people” interchangeably.

What is Disability?

There are a lot of definitions of disability.

In this space, disability is any illness or mental, physical, or sensory impairment that results in someone living their life differently than they would if they didn’t have that impairment or limitation.

A Short Glossary of Terms

Some terms and abreviations you might find in these pages:

LGBQ: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer. I use this as a big term to encompass all people who don’t identify as heterosexual.

Trans: transgender people. You’ll often see the abbreviation LGBT for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. I split up the LGB and T because, while there’s often overlap between LGBQ and trans communities, and many people are both LGBQ and trans, gender identity and sexual orientation are two diferent kettles of fish, and transgender folks’ rights and needs are often ignored.

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