“Call Us Regulars” – Words Can Matter

May 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm Leave a comment

As a person with a very visible physical disability, I know what it’s like to stand out in most situations and therefore not be considered regular even though I am. Now I always have a problem when speaking about everyone in the disability community, because you can’t lump all members of any group together and describe them all in the same terms. There will always be at least one dissenter who thinks, “Sorry, but you don’t speak for me. I feel differently.” That’s understandable and OK with me; I, oftentimes, find myself being that dissenter. So in the series of “Call Us Regulars” columns written by me, I am speaking for myself and nobody else unless they are explicitly mentioned.

——————————————————-Words

As I wrote my previous “Call Us Regulars” blog post (ecnv.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/call-us-regulars-first-thoughts/), I began to think about person-first language. As I say in my preamble to these posts, I’m sure there will be dissenters, and that is certainly true of this one.

Let’s break that phrase down: the beginning part is “person-first” and the ending part is “language.” Now I admit I don’t know every person in the world with a disability, but it is probably safe to say that they would rather be seen as a person than as a thing. I know   I appreciate being seen as a person and not a thing (as I said in a previous Call Us Regulars)! I would much rather be described as a ‘person with a disability’ than a ‘disabled person.’

For one thing, to me ‘disabled’ makes me think of something that is broken and needs to be fixed; like a car that is “disabled” gets moved to the side of the highway so as not to impede traffic. I really don’t think I’m “impeding” anything or anyone by being a person with a disability. Now I’m getting into the issue of proper semantics.

Semantics and word choice can make a huge difference (I wrote about it last year ecnv.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/the-pen-is-mightier-than-the-sword/). While I do think that political correctness can go too far, there are some things (words and actions) that are just plain hurtful to certain individuals. I would venture a guess that most people with disabilities (and those who love them) have gotten quite proficient at having a ‘grin-and-bear-it’ philosophy because life throws people with disabilities a lot of curveballs. But the vast majority of people reach a point where they can no longer ‘grin and bear it.’ So when people write words that the world will see (especially, but not only, Facebook statuses and other social media posts), I’d like them to keep that in mind and refrain from throwing one of those curveballs. Simply put, words can hurt.

By: Tony Trott, ECNV

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

“Call Us Regulars” – First Thoughts Restraint, Seclusion and Use of Aversives

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