Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Disabled or Differently Abled

26 Nov 2015Disability is a subject that makes some people uncomfortable and that's why different words are sometimes used to describe it. Some people prefer differently abled because it's used to talk about their differences in a positive way. But I feel by hiding the issue behind other words you're just creating other problems.

Now if you want to identify as differently abled, diffabled, handicapable or any other label, it's not my place to tell you otherwise. But here are my thoughts and observations on the subject of labels.

Personally I'm not a fan of any of these words because my disability is part of who I am. I'm not going to hide it behind euphemisms, which in my opinion can be used to ignore the difficulties disabled people face in society.

When I hear a person described as differently abled one question inevitably comes to mind, different from what? There isn't only one way to think, one way to act, or one way to look. So the description isn't accurate. When you think about it, it's a weird description, because at the end of the day every person on the planet is differently abled. No two people are exactly the same way and that's what makes people interesting.

Looking at the ways people use these words I find they're often used because of fear, ignorance, wanting to highlight ability, or not identifying someone as disabled.

The fear of being judged by the associated stigma can cause people to find comfort in new words that sound positive and distance them from the stigma. This is just a band aid over the situation though. In time these words with develop their own stigma, and they'll have to move onto new words, starting the cycle all over again.

People usually have the best intentions. They seek to be polite, encourage others, or show that others just do things differently but are still capable.
The trouble is when you use substitute words you suggest that the subject of disabilities is something to be uncomfortable about or should be avoided. It also creates confusion for people, not knowing what word to use. These people may stay quiet because they don't what to risk using the wrong term and insulting someone. Either way it's less people raising awareness which isn't what we want.

I can understand why some identify the way they do based on their abilities, but I think they should consider the following. Having a disability isn't just about the things that create a physical or neurological difference in you. It's also about the way society disables you, by placing barriers that make it harder for you to access and enjoy services, or be accepted the way you are.

Disability shouldn't be a taboo subject. I'll talk about mine with anyone that asks as long as they're polite about it and willing to listen. But I understand that not everyone is as comfortable with the subject as me, and that's why different labels emerge. However if we treat a disability as undesirable and ignore it just because it makes some people uncomfortable, how can we hope to spread awareness of our disabilities and highlight the way society disables people.

At the end of the day I may just be being overly sensitive on this issue as people tell those with a disability. But then again this attitude of 'get over it' is often the approach of those that aren't affected by the issue in the first place.

I suppose the point I'm making in all of this is; don't use labels as a way of avoiding or reducing discussion on the issues currently faced by disabled people.

So what are your thoughts on the subject, how do you prefer to identify yourself?


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