Is the Word "Disability" Offensive?

Is the Word “Disability” Offensive?

My wife wrote a blog recently that came under attack because she used the word disabilities. What is the definition of a disability? It is a loss of a physical or mental function.

During this argument it was stated that the word disabilities is as offensive to wheelchair users as the “n” word is to African American people. Mind blown! How can you equate people making stupid comments out of ignorance to the level of hate involved in racism? We were told that the word disabilities implies that one can not accomplish a goal or task. Do you feel that way when you hear the word? Does it have a negative connotation in your head or is it a medical term that means a function was lost? If we are offended by a medical term are we saying that we are ashamed of ourselves? What comes to mind when you hear the word disability?

Are there ignorant people who make insensitive comments when they see us in public? Of course there are those people. Hey slow down speedy! Is that the proper thing to say? Probably not, but I believe those comments are made because people are uncomfortable around others with disabilities. That is a sad unfortunate fact.

There are challenges in society for the disabled. Are we stared at? Yes. Do people who lack common sense make insensitive comments and ask rude questions? Yes. Are we really going to go that far and say it’s an act of hate or deliberate discrimination for a person to act in ignorance? Is it harder to find a job against people who may be able to do the job faster? Of course it is, but that isn’t automatically discrimination.

I acknowledge there are several serious social issues facing the disabled community. I refuse to believe that this is done in hate or as an act of deliberate discrimination. What are your thoughts on this subject? Stupidity or hate?

What steps can we as individuals take on a daily basis to change the perception of the physically challenged? We had previously written a blog on being ambassadors for our community. I was surprised by the comments on Facebook stating that people do not want to answer questions or educate others. Obviously it’s a personal choice, but if we are not sharing information who will do it? Who will let society know that we are no different? We can not rely on others to change society. What are our social responsibilities and what part are you playing on this issue?

6 replies
  1. Chris
    Chris says:

    I don’t find the term disability offensive if used in the right context. I hate the word handicapped. I perfer the later of the two. When using parking spots I would love to see them labeled as accessible parking. Since that is clearly what they are. They are spots that make accessing a location accessible. I however rarely correct people since that have no idea what the words mean to people like our family. A person is a person first no matter what. I would never say I have a disabled daughter. I would say my daughter Kayla has a disability. She’s still my daughter, still Kayla and she just happens to have Rett syndrome. We raise awareness for the disorder not her. We only do what she agrees to and anything beyond that is my own use. She is not a poster child for a disorder.

  2. Karine Thornhill
    Karine Thornhill says:

    People in the Anglo Saxon world are getting over sensitive to terms defining social or physical conditions. I always refer to my granddaughter as severely disabled which is what she is. She has a rare chromosome abnormality and cannot do anything that kids of her age can do. As in the previous comments I think the term handicapped is worse than disabled. When my husband and I sailed with the jubilee sailing trust the “able bodied” persons were buddying a disabled person which cover anyone one from someone in a wheelchair to someone suffering from physical illness impeding their mobility and agility. Terminology never came as an obstacle to us all sharing the duties and supporting each other physically and mentally. People who emit judgment on terminology are either ignorant or “frightened” of the range of conditions which makes a person disabled or in other word not able to move, do or be in same way as a normally functioning person.

  3. Sonja
    Sonja says:

    Amen!!! I feel like Chris!!! Yes I have a DisAbility(Spins Bifida) and I am not ashamed of It. It’s a Unique part of Who I Am but the term HANDICAPPED Really does Offend Me. After making it known to those in my Life how to address me, then came the Jokes:: “YOU CAN’T PARK HERE, YOU’RE NOT HANDICAPPED REMEMBER!” I Learn to Laugh & Smile through the Hurt of Words but IF WE DON’T MAKE OUR VOICES KNOWN “SPEAK UP to STAND UP” FOR OURSELVES, WHO WILL??! IT STARTS with US!
    I Personally Never drove before, so I play along with them to get My Joke in too:: “YOU’RE RIGHT, LOOK WHO’S DRIVING? I’M CALLING THE COPS, BREAKING THE LAW! WHERE’S YOUR WHEELCHAIR STICKER!?!”
    I try to Take the Negatives and Use it Positively to Stay Encouraged in Life

  4. Brian
    Brian says:

    I’ve never thought about it as offensive. You have to call a person with a life altering condition such as paralysis or deafness something. To me it sounds better than handicapped, and when it comes to being called disabled I just turn it around to being able to do tons of things despite my paralysis, it just might take a little more time and creativity.

  5. G j H
    G j H says:

    Barriers offend me. Staring, curious people are interested and want to connect. I engage them and share; an ambassador and advocate for those who come after me . In the 1950’s I was crippled ,then came handicapped, followed by disabled or maybe it was the other way around, The sensitive 1970’s person used, person with a disability, or Special , really? Differently abled is my favorite, it requires looking within and beyond what isn’t obvious to everyone.

  6. Shannon L Alwaise
    Shannon L Alwaise says:

    I am a wheelchair user. I don’t find the word disability offensive. I find it neutral. It’s been the standard word for decades. To me it simply means lack of an ability that most people have, in my case walking. It does not extend to other things – it does not mean I am incapable of anything. It does not mean that I can’t work. I dislike the word handicapped, which seems old-fashioned and means disadvantaged. I don’t feel I am disadvantaged in all circumstances by inability to walk. I don’t like differently abled (I lack one certain ability, and my abilities are not different), physically challenged (I don’t think if my life as a series of obstacles), or handicapable (I know I’m capable of a lot and it has nothing to do with my disability).

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