The meaning of disability – why i oppose handicap


This piece started as a comment on someone elses blog. They recognised the word handicap represents a problem for some people but sought to find a way to make it acceptable to themselves. I’m not really bothered about the language people choose for themselvesindeeda language rule that i work by is to respect the language that people use about themselves. This is about the language i use about myself.

For me the word disability means to experience discrimination based on impairment.

Because i am a disabled person society actively discriminates against me on the basis of my impairment. People’s attitudes towards me are very questionable, the environment does not accommodate my needs and organisations work to keep me out.

The word disability therefore gives m something to fight against, something that is outside of me, something that i have survived. This is a basis for pride and shows my strength. I uphold a social model of disability.

The word handicap is a tragedy model of disability word. It says i am to be pitied, afraid of even. It places the problem within me. It is rumoured to indicate the postion of disabled people as beggars who come to you cap in hand for your charity. It may have links witht he horse racing world, the sport of kings. It demands patronage. As horses fall over hurdles and damge themselves, so the jockeys get hurt. Often accrueing spinal injuries. As a good horse needs to be handicapped to give the others a chance so a good rider has become handicapped by impairment. they are unlikely to win again never mind ride. But as this happened under the instruction of a lord or lady, the aristocracy seek to salve their conscience, and put their employee out to grass.

I guess the word takes on a class aspect if this history is correct and so for me the word becomes doubly difficult. But, i accept that other people use it without intent to hurt. Older people are more likely to use it than younger people. it is more endemic to thier cultural mores. But you still hea rit elsewhere.

 

I remember a housing officer saying at a meeting of a disability committee i found a house for a handicapped person. He wass attacked with righteous anger for the word he used. personally i found it much more important that he had succeeded in housing one of us. I would have liked to know how it had happened.

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