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Is it time to stop using the word disability?

  October 29, 2015   

Earlier this autumn, Rebecca Atkinson wrote a blog for BBC Ouch, asking if it is time to stop using the word disability. Rebecca is behind the ToyLikeMe initiative, an online campaign encouraging the toy industry to include positive representation for the 150 million children worldwide with disabilities.

A Reality To Be Accommodated

Rebecca argues that disability is a word with negative connotations. She writes that in her experience, many of those who know or care for someone with a disability, often use different words and phrases to describe them. She tells the story of a woman with a facial birthmark who argues that she is not at all disabled - she lives a full, normal life and holds a gainful job. Rebecca goes on to point out that it may not be the word in itself that is the problem, but attitudes towards disabilities in society. Rebecca describes a disability as a reality to be accommodated, not a problem to be eliminated, and suggests the term “human variation” could replace disability.

You Are Beyond Ability

Disability advocate and dancer Lawrence Carter-Long seems to agree that it is the attitudes in society that is the root of the issue.

He has a somewhat different perspective on the word disability:

“Don’t be afraid of the ‘Dis’. You can disturb, you can distil information, you can discover new ways of being… ‘Dis’ the prefix means to be set apart a little bit, that you are over and above and beyond whatever is attached to that word. So if you are looking at disability, you are beyond ability, you are reframing ability, you are putting ability in a new context, looking at it from a new angle, from a different direction. In everything that you do… the work you bring out to the world, don’t be afraid to own it and don’t be afraid to shake that up.”

What do you think and what is your experience with the word disability? Is it time to find a new word?