Trying Too Hard?

“Don’t assume a person with a disability is easily offended.”

                                                                                     —“Disability Etiquette” from Wikipedia. 

At the beginning of the research, we asked ourselves, “What is disability?”According to Cerebral Palsy: A Guide for Care by Bachrach Miller, the terms regarding disability are defined as such:

“Impairment is the correct term to use to define a deviation from normal, such as not being able to make a muscle move…Disability is the term used to define a restriction in the ability to perform a normal activity of daily living which someone of the same age is able to perform. … Handicap is the term used to describe a child or adult who, because of the disability, is unable to achieve the normal role in society commensurate with his age and socio-cultural milieu…All disabled people are impaired, and all handicapped people are disabled, but a person can be impaired and not necessarily be disabled, and a person can be disabled without being handicapped.”[1]

Nowadays, more and more people begin to pay attention to how to address people with disabilities. The use of “people-first language”* in English aims to “avoid the subconscious dehumanization when discussing people with disabilities”[2]. However, as the researches continue and after we interviewed a few people with disabilities, we soon realized that language is not really a problem. Every person we interviewed all said that the word “disability” doesn’t bother them at all and they don’t mind being called “disabled” because it is a fact. (Interview with Raul Krauthausen by @Moriel).

So here is the question, if the language / term / vocabulary doesn’t matter as much as we think, where does the problem really lies?

Another example would be: why is it okay to say someone has dark hair but not okay to say someone is a gay or someone is a black especially in the western countries? It is because people who used these terms earlier in the history had a strong prejudice and discrimination in mind. In the end, language was created to describe things as how they are. There is nothing wrong with language itself if people don’t think otherwise to begin with.

Could it be that some of us—people without physical disabilities—think that the current terms we use are offensive is because we are subconsciously offending them in the first place? So the question is not how to change the language, or other visible things. The question is how we can change people’s opinion.

  • For example: use “a person with a vision impairment” instead of “a blind person”



This is a group project on going #able with @Moriel, @ChristineOehme and @Luise Kröning

Changing from the inside

@lujia hi! Are you working with @Moriel on this?

You might want to get in touch with members in Milano for a slightly different problem and approach - they zoomed in on the problem of wheelchair mobility and how disabled people can’t push their own wheelchairs and be on their own. Better designed wheelchairs would ideally increase one’s autonomy and freedom to move. It takes out of the equation the need to be accompanied at any step, which is after all a practical reality identified by the group in discussions and something which can affect how others treat you.  It would be interesting to study how perspective differ - what goes on in people’s heads when they see someone helped versus when they see someone being on their own. Not sure how much it ties with your (more educational) approach, but as a learning point here’s the idea where you can get in touch for more info.

Hi @Noemi,

Yes, I am working on the same project with @Moriel, @ChristineOehme and @Luise Kröning. Thank you very much for your feedback. We will take a look at their project.


Are you aware of the huge international work on ICF?

Reminds me of how people respond to death

I found this an interesting read. I remember meeting someone recently, an ex-soldier, who lost her leg in Iraq. Initially I felt awkward about acknowledging the (obvious) fact of her disability - but once I started talking to her, it felt natural to ask her whether she was still able to go running (something she had said she used to enjoy). Actually she said that her false limb was so good that she could still enjoy running. It felt very good to talk ina natural way about her disability.

In speaking to her, I was encouraged by a memory of my experience many years ago, when someone close to me died. Afterwards, many close friends found it really difficult to talk about it with me - yet I was more than happy to talk about it, indeed it felt very unnatural not to. I suppose, in some ways, grief is a form of disability…

Anyway, thank for posting.

Interesting idea Patrick

“grief is a form of disability…”

I think this is a very interesting suggestion Patrick, that may benefit from great insight.

I also read a very interesting acticle about how it is often harnessed by communities to help deliver change as well:

Well worth a read