Is ‘Disabled’ Really an Offensive Word?

Hello, everybody!

For those who have asked, I am much better this week now that my medication has changed. Yay! Thank you for all your messages and support during this time. Now that my life is going back to normal, onwards and upwards, friends!

With that in mind, let’s discuss one of the latest ideas that have sent shockwaves through the disabled community. Earlier this week, it was announced that Clover Moore would like to outlaw the word, disabled. She is the Sydney Lord Mayor, in the City council. Later on, in this statement, she said that the word “will be as offensive as the N word.” The proposed new word is “Accessible Inclusion Seekers”. You can read more about this here and here, as well as all of the disabled communities’ reactions through this Twitter link.

I have so many thoughts about this, and to be honest most of them are problematic. However, I am trying to see this from both sides; so, let’s talk about the positives for a second. First off, it’s rare that disabilities have a conversation when it comes to city councils…so that’s cool. Also, someone is trying to help us, which can be quite rare too.

However, that help is thoroughly misguided. I don’t mean to be super negative, but I am against the outlawing. Partly because the word choice of seeker sounds terrible! It sounds like we are attention seekers. It adds to a large culture that believes that we are exaggerating our illnesses. This culture often claims not trying hard enough and only want the ‘benefits’. Seeker is the last term we need to be legally associated with us!

Also, who has the time to say, “I’m an access inclusive seeker?” It is such a time waster. More importantly what about those who have disabilities that affect their talking ability? It strips them of independence to talk about their own disability. In what universe is that fair? We don’t need another person to take away independence from us. Especially when it comes to something the majority of us don’t want.

The other reason I, and many others, are against this is why Moore wants to change the word. This idea was founded on the notion that ‘disabled’ is a bad word. This makes no sense. I will scream this until the day I die: there is nothing wrong with being disabled! It isn’t a dirty word! It is a part of me, it’s the same as me having blue eyes. Disabled isn’t offensive in any way. It’s like me calling you abled as an insult. Like how dare you have working body parts. It’s ridiculous and makes no sense. I have seen people compare disabled to the word ‘retard’ and base the offence off of that. However, they are two separate words. One has been used to describe and form parts of identity. The latter has been an extreme slur used for centuries to trap us and to bully. So, I’ll say it again, DISABLED IS NOT AN OFFENSIVE WORD. There is nothing wrong with us.

Now, here’s another issue with the premise: comparing disabled to the N word. Is an outrage. Now, I’m going to *metaphorically* tread carefully here. I am white and therefore have no idea what it is like to be a person of colour. However, the N-word is used to harm and as a form of bigotry, it will never be okay to use. Disabled is by no means anywhere near that level. Also, I don’t think someone who is white and knows very little about being a person of colour can be in charge of saying that anything is as offensive as the N word. She has no idea, and for that matter, she is an able-bodied person. Meaning she also has no idea what it is like to be disabled. Should people be allowed to make such big calls when they don’t know us and aren’t us?

I know the majority of this has been negative. However, I share all of this for a very important reason. Often people assume they know what’s best for us and go ahead doing that. However, it’s rare that anyone consults any disabled people! The truth is, we don’t need the word disabled to be banned. We need that same passion but towards real issues. Towards integration and acceptance; towards ramps and lifts. We need to be treated the same as anyone else, because shocker, we are! Spending millions to change this will lead likely to lead to more segregation. People are already confused with how to be around us – this will turn that flame into a fire. Ultimately, if you want to help us, great! But, please, please, please consult us before you do. We are smart and thoughtful and excited for a change. WE ARE USEFUL, please listen to us. That way we can make sure that the world gets better for us and future generations.

Thank you for reading. If you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear it.

Have a great week! Be kind to others, be kind to yourself, see you in a week.

Bethany

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