“Disabled” or Not

How do feel about the word “disability?”

Someone asks me that question every so often. Recently it came in an e-mail from my editor. She was talking to a woman who is blind with an aromatherapy and massage business when she asked the woman if it was difficult to run her business with her ” disability.” My editor said that the woman “seemed very troubled by the use of the word.” This business owner said she focuses on what she can do and thinks of her business as an “ability.” After talking about it, they decided that the word didn’t seem like a nice word — “more like a misleading, judgmental label.”

I told her I agree; I don’t like its use either. I prefer to say I have “limited abilities” or some “physical challenges.” The words “disabled person” sounds like the person can’t do anything for themselves. And that is the sad part, so many people see what we CAN’T DO instead of what we CAN DO.

Unfortunately, no one has come up with a suitable “label” for us. Some people use the word “handicap.” I really don’t like that word either. It causes visions of beggars holding their hats out for a handout from passersby. Funny, that isn’t even where the origin of the word came from. According to http://www.snopes.com/language/offense/handicap.asp ‘hand-in-cap’ is the name of a lottery game from the 1600s. And I explained the whole story here, if you want to read it you can go to the link I gave you. Suffice it to say that it had to do with two people and a referee and a cap. It wasn’t until 1916 that the word came to mean a physically crippled child; in the 1950s it was extended to describe adults and the mentally ill.

Whether you are physically challenged or not, how do you feel when you hear the word “disability?” I would love to hear your take on the use of this word, or any other word that you may have heard people describe us by. Please leave your comments below.

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