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Might the variance in terminology itself be a form of diversity that should be respected, especially when people use these terms to describe themselves? I recently participated on a team of people invited to review and select essays for a national publication.The essays were specifically about young people with disabilities.By the time we got to the part of the discussion with the terms diseased and unintelligible, special needs and crip seemed tame.
We need to look past internal separations that stem from the nametags we give ourselves, and focus instead on the bigger issues in our lives.
Right now we are missing opportunities to come together because of first impressions formed, very often, by one-word phrases.
The responses in the first list all came from people striving to lead a march of social unity.
But not a small number of them rolled their eyes at one anothers choice of vocabulary.
The list of options presented above comes from firsthand responses given to a question posed in an investigation.
All of these inquiries are valid, yet in our quest to identify appropriate titles for our community and for ourselves as individuals, have we perhaps gotten stuck in the quagmire of jargon?As you can see, noticeable diversity exists among us as disability activists. But in all reality, that list was nothing more than a glimpse of the range of terminology being used when including the disability community, as well as its friends, parents and allies.These terms came from parents, community members, medical professionals, siblings, friends and even from people with disabilities.And you still want health insurance that doesnt penalize you because you were born with CP, had a brain tumor removed as a teenager or select holistic medicine rather than the chemicals your doctor prescribes.The question then becomes: Is any one of us, as an individual, in a position to define right and wrong when it comes to referring to a disability, since a range of language is used within our community? As the disability community, what are we really looking for, and to what should we give priority, equal rights or universal terminology?The majority, however, didnt seem to think it was possible.In the movie The American President, one of the characters says: Politics is perception. If people perceive individuals with disabilities as being burdensome, damaged, dumb or flawed, then regardless of the writers claim of wanting equal education and career opportunities for all, in their reality they dont perceive that is possible. The disability community can be equally negative and exclusive.But I am also posing the challenge, myself included, to look at the bigger picturegetting past terminology to the point that we can focus on working together and achieving our movements larger goals: such as education, employment and healthcare.And in this process, allowing people to see for themselves just how wrong and offensive terms like debilitated and invalid really are. But those in the disability community have countless opportunities to influence change in our daily lives.One activist uses the term special needs, while another prefers the word crip.Some found the first phrase too dated or derogatory to ones self, while others felt the latter descriptor was too aggressive or discriminatory.