“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.”
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”. 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”