Does The Word Disability Bother You?


One of the best things about starting this blog is it has opened up dialogue between my friends and i about disability issues in my home country Zimbabwe, disability issues here in Australia and disability issues worldwide. The reoccurring theme i hear in these discussions from people without disabilities is their dislike of the word “disability.” I kid you not, i CRINGE each time someone without a disability says to me “i don’t like the word disability” or my favourite one “i don’t like the word disability cause i don’t believe anyone has a disability.” The award though goes to anyone who has ever said to me “Colleen i don’t see you as having a disability.” I find this quite interesting that people without disabilities do not like the word “disability” yet those of us with disabilities are comfortable very comfortable using the word. What i do have a problem with is the word disabled because it places emphasis on the disability rather the person whereas disability in the context of a person with a disability places emphasis on the person rather than the disability….So i guess my question is this why don’t people like the word disability? This is something that has really been on my mind the last few days. In order to answer the question, i’ll have a have a conversation with people who think this way in order to understand this and do a follow up post.

PS: if you do not like the word “disability” please comment and let’s have a conversation about it.


2 thoughts on “Does The Word Disability Bother You?”

  1. In the two week that I have been in the UK, I have noticed that the word “disability” is used frequently and is considered normal. I have noticed this through out my orientation and induction to my university as they have talked about disability parking, online help, recording, toilets, housing and etc. So maybe this word has stood out to me because, coming from Zimbabwe, there seems to be a myriad more options to enable “disabled” people to be more comfortable. This is good.

    But I have also noticed it because I too don’t like the term “disabled”. I have always used the term “physically challenged”. Maybe that is the American influence that I have had, and I think Americans tend to really make great strides to be politically correct -always.

    Regardless, I dislike the term “disabled” because it has (for me) connotations of dis-empowerment, permanent helplessness- the complete opposite of able. However, I know several physically challenged people who are ambitious, empowered and full of hope. The word “disabled” also has connotations of disengagement- like you are un- done. I don’t like this. It gives you a sense of hopelessness.

    At the art school I used to oversee, we had three physically challenged and one psychologically challenged individual. Their challenges ranged from being born with no limbs to deafness, and abnormal height issues.We all called them challenged not disabled. We felt like this gave them a sense of self respect. We held them to the same standards as all the other students, but of course made provisions for them to be able to achieve their academic goals in spite of the challenges.

    You can overcome a challenge. But can one overcome an inability?
    The term physically challenged is much more empowering than the term disabled. So yes, the word disabled bothers me. ….alot!


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