Time to share a personal pet peeve. If I’m repeating myself, please be patient.
I HATE the word disabled. It implies deficiency and helplessness. It promotes a mindset of need. I contend that those we label as “disabled” are neither without defenses or in need of much assistance to manage daily life. I wonder how people with disabling issues feel – do they chafe, as I do, at being being categorized? Or do they simply accept and go about their lives?
Yes I do have an impairment —in my case it’s visual, for others it may be any number of things — normal intelligence, physical problems, or psychological issues. I understand there are serious, life altering disabilities out there that people have to cope with on a daily basis. Like others, I’ve lived (and fought against) this all my life.
Still I do not consider myself disabled. I’m able, just fighting a different challenge.
One that’s more obvious at times than I would like. Recently I faced a situation where I felt singled out in an online social work class I’m taking. The instructor spent class time talking about the Office of Disability Services, and referenced a legally blind student, saying “she” could get all kinds of help there.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was out of class that day, an excused absence to attend a funeral for a childhood friend’s 27-year-old niece who had died unexpectedly. When I watched the recorded class I was mortified — the comments brought to he surface all the things I have fought so hard to overcome.
Being labelled. Being exposed as deficient in some way (as if other students can’t tell my glasses are a mile thick and I have to lean close to the screen sometimes). Being forced to think about an issue I thought long gone.
It’s this experience that has made me think about the language we use to describe people — to put them in piles with a neat label. I for one resent it. I admit (reluctantly) that I have a visual impairment, but I refuse to call myself disabled.
Food for thought or aimless rant?