The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

April 9, 2012 at 5:53 pm 10 comments

Tony TrottThe saying I used for the title of this post may or may not be true depending on your situation; however, it is always true that words can hurt.  Even if theyare not meant to be derogatory, different readers of an article may pick up on something and then the whole article gets thrown out of whack.  When I read an article, no matter what the subject, and I read the words “amongst” or “whilst,” I tend to roll my eyes (aren’t those words just a little too pretentious?).  The phrase, though, that really gets me worked up is “bound to a wheelchair.”

I have used a wheelchair for over a decade to deal with a progressive condition called Friedreich’s Ataxia, and in that time I have not met anyone who was actually physically bound to a wheelchair!  Wheelchairs are very liberating and it does the user a grave injustice to describe him or her as “bound to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair bound.”  I am a “wheelchair user” or a “person who uses a wheelchair;” I am not “wheelchair bound!”

I realize that that phrase was not originally meant to be derogatory, but times (and acceptable phrases) change.  When I read that phrase in an article or column, I try to contact the author right away to explain why not to use that phrase.  In most cases authors/reporters say they see my point and say that they will try to keep that phrase out of future writings.  I also, when I read certain articles that have an opportunity to use that phrase but don’t, write to the author/reporter and thank him or her for not using that phrase and explaining why it was a great choice!

A fellow advocate, John Hudson, was adamant in his opposition to that phrase.  And, truth be told, I never saw him bound to his wheelchair at any of the Georgetown basketball games where we sat in the same section (never saw him bound to his wheelchair at any other time either!).

Below is a great picture that John used “to scold journalists who used the phrase “wheelchair-bound,” suggesting “wheelchair users” and was used in his obituary.

One of my favorite sayings is, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  I’ll stop short of saying that the phrases “wheelchair bound” and “bound to a wheelchair” are evil, but I do feel like “good men” (and women) need to do something!

by Tony Trott  Peer Mentor


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rosemary Ciotti  |  April 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Spot On!
    What a terrific commentary on a situation that continues to confound experienced journalists.
    Additionally, your mention of one of the many
    ways that John Hudson used satire to get his point across.

    • 2. ecnvecnv  |  April 10, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Thanks, Rosemary. It’s always nice to be appreciated by fellow advocates!

      That picture of John is one of my favorites.


  • 3. judithguystudio  |  April 9, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Fantastic, Tony. You know we advocate for this all the time. I would argue that the best argument against using this phrase is your wife. The only time I’ve seen her immobile was in a bed. When she is in her chair, she is a whirlwind! Also, your niece took the opportunity to educate a friend who used the word “retarded” in a derogatory way in a FB post. She learns a lot from knowing you!

    • 4. ecnvecnv  |  April 10, 2012 at 10:37 am

      Thanks, and of course I agree about my wife! “Whirlwind” is a good descriptor for her! Tell your daughter that she’s awesome. I guess her Momma raised her right!


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