Language disables us

I am really fed up with the media’s insistence on describing people with a variety of impairments as ‘special,” “special people,” “special children.” Yuk yuk yuk! In my cynical view “special” is simply a euphemism for “second class.” We are no more “special” than any other human being. We may have particular needs because of our impairments, but others have them for other reasons also, because they are refugees, battered women, orphaned children etc. They are not generally referred to as “special” in the same patronising way disabled people are.

This morning an otherwise interesting item on Morning Report was marred by the constant gratuitous use of that word, and not by the person being interviewed either.

We have to challenge it each time it is used. It places disabled people very firmly in a ghetto. No organisation associated with disabled people should get away with using this term. Either tell it like it is or simply use everyday language. There is nothing wrong with using the term “disabled people” if it is relevant – we are disabled by society – or even, if we must, people with disabilities, or just plain ordinary people.

If we have human rights, and we most surely do, then we must expect journalists and others to use the language of rights, and give every human being the respect and dignity they deserve by using dignified, respectful and neutral language.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights