Thursday, 28 January 2016
#SayTheWord: Why I'm reclaiming the word 'disabled'
The personal is political, when I call myself disabled I am aligning myself with the disability rights movement. It is a conscious deliberate and pride filled choice. Disabled as a self-chosen marker of identity and pride has a more recent history, one in which it has experienced a positive reclamation of a stigmatised identity, in much the same way the LGBTI community has reclaimed queer as an identity and pride term.
The pervasive idea that disability is an inherently negative experience which one must feel ashamed of is, I argue, central to person first language, ie. 'person with a disability'. I do not need to remind people that I am a person because I use a wheelchair, as though my disability renders me without personhood.
Language holds power, the power to transform ideas and attitudes. It shapes how you see yourself and the world. Words like disabled are not just words, they hold an entire history of struggle for social justice and provides connection to others experiencing the same marginality. Self-chosen labels hold immense power for individuals and minority groups. Self-chosen labels are political, they enable minorities to mobilise on issues of discrimination.
Read more of my thoughts on this in my article here