Choose Your Words Wisely
Why Words Continue to Stigmatize Disability and How You Can Help Change Societies Mindset.
The definition of stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.
Words such as “special needs, handicapable, wheelchair bound, suffers from, gimp/crip” should be considered stigmatic, in my opinion. Just like the “R” and “N” words that are euphemisms and considered offensive and disrespectful when describing intellectual disabilities or the African-American race, we should view the following terms in the same fashion when describing people in the disability community:
While I personally think I’m fabulous (wink wink), I do not need the world to think I have “special needs.” No one person is any more “special” than anyone else. We are ALL fabulous in our own way.
Am I handy? Yes. Am I capable? Yes. Am I either one of those because I use a wheelchair? NO! There are many handy and capable people around the world.
I am NOT bound to my wheelchair. I do utilize one and I do get out of it.
I suffer from people’s ignorance and lack of ethical diplomacy. I DO NOT suffer from my disABILITY. I may have personal “WHY today?” moments, such as I’m going to be late for a meeting at work and I hit EVERY possible red light — but don’t we all have those moments? However, I am a happy and positive person, living and loving life . . . despite my AAARGH moments.
If any of the above words have negative notions, these (in my opinion) have the most:
Gimp –“The noun gimp is sometimes used to describe a limp or another physical disability, although it’s an outdated and offensive word to use. Gimp was first used in the 1920’s, possibly as a combination of limp and gammy, an old slang word for “bad.”
Cripple – Deprive of strength or efficiency; make useless or worthless; anything that is impaired or flawed.
I am not bad. I am not flawed. I am strong. I am valuable. I am worthy.
Now, while I embrace my disability and take pride in my unique ability to adapt and accomplish everyday tasks differently, I don’t see myself as “special, handicapable, wheelchair bound, suffering, or a gimpy crip.” I am, after all, just like anyone else, and want to be treated as everyone else, with the same rights and equality just as our forefathers intended in our Constitution.
Simply remember the golden rule: people first. Our disability does not define who we are, so please refer to us as people with disabilities or an individual with a disability. Most importantly, EDUCATE others on disability etiquette and always use words that EMPOWER!