Disability is not a bad word. Anyone who says otherwise is either being difficult, or they don’t know any better. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing any better—that’s how you learn. There’s been a lot of confusion over the years with able-bodied people not exactly knowing what to call people with disabilities. So, they make up these patronizing terms that only serve to make them feel better. My personal favorite is “handy-capable”. Handy-capable, give me a break! Yeah, we shut that down quickly.
So, why exactly are able-bodied people terrified of calling us disabled? It all has to do with this socially constructed negative connotation that the term “disability” implies. You see, able-bodied people are under the disillusion that being disabled is actually a bad thing. Oh sure, it’s an inconvenience at times, but not inherently bad. And, let me clarify. Being disabled is not an inconvenience due to the disability, but by society being unwilling to understand and accommodate our differences. We are not asking for much, maybe a ramp next to some stairs, some audio singles on busy cross walks, and when we say we’re suffering from depression, it’s not the same as being “bummed out”. Being bummed out is like, “Oh, I’m just a butcher from Brooklyn. Nobody loves me”. Being depressed is like, “Well, how am I gonna try and kill myself today”.
It’s kind of funny when you stop and think about it. Able-bodied people are terrified of disability because it’s not seen as “normal”. So, they instinctively think that having a disability is bad. Then they refuse to even call that person disabled because of the negativity they themselves have created. I feel sorry for them. They drown in a sea of ignorance and fear made by their own hands. So, don’t be afraid of calling someone disabled since disability itself isn’t something to be afraid of.
More importantly, how can we assuage the falsehood that the word “disability” is bad? I feel the only way to help able-bodied people with their ignorance is for more accurate representation of the disabled in the media. For too long, disabled characters in film and literature have been depicted as either being helpless or enraged by their limitations. This is to be expected since those in power, those who control the media, are often able-bodied people whose only knowledge of the disabled is what has already been promoted in other forms of inaccurate representations.
Accurate representation needs to come in the form of people with disabilities having their own identity instead of just being “a disabled person”. People with disabilities are no different than anyone else. Like any other minority, we face scrutiny and unfair stereotypes brought on by ignorance. Yet, we are still people even if we do not fall within the abstract concept of “normal”. Disability, or being disabled, is just another minority group. As such, the “bad” aspects of being disabled stem from ignorance we face from able-bodied society along with a world that is not equipped to handle us.