A Community of... Terms?

Disabled, differently abled, cripple, handicap, wheelchair bound, confined to, OI, OI'er, china doll, glass bones, hard of hearing, hearing impaired, special needs, congenital disease, condition, mutation, uniquely able, "special", physically challenged, physically immobile, physically impaired, immobile, physically disabled..

Those are some of the things that have been used to describe me. And also some of the words that I have used to describe myself!

I think that I really understand the definition of three or four of them. The rest are just things that people have reached for, out of convenience, like getting dressed for a Monday morning after a too-fun weekend: just throw on whatever is comfortable to catch the bus on time. Sometimes what is convenient and comfortable for one person isn't so for someone else.

The disability community is diverse and by no means do I want to limit that diversity. But it does become frustrating when we get in the way of ourselves! Arguing about the correct term is something that I silently groan over whenever it happens. I am old enough now and have some sense of who I am... at least enough to know how I would like my disability to be referred. For those who want to 'experiment' and try on different labels - by all means go for it! I think this is an incredibly necessary aspect of accepting your disability. But ultimately I don't think that there is any value in arguing about the whether one label is more acceptable than the other.

Basic civility should be the expectation and standard of behavior in these instances: if it offends someone, don't use that word. If the individual prefers one term over the other..make a mental note and use it. When referring to a group of people that you are uncertain about, resort to the widely accepted term of "people with disabilities" and then see if they prefer something else. What I love about the disability community is that just as we are diverse, we are also a community of people who are vocal: "nothing for us without us..!" (Right??)

Similarly to getting wrapped up in medical diagnoses, I ultimately think that getting caught up in the quirks of terminology can be just as self-limiting.

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