Disabled or Impaired? How do you talk about your disability?
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Do you consider yourself disabled? Impaired? Living with a chronic health condition?
As an organization committed to assisting people with disabilities we are often challenged by the way we talk about disabilities. Some of the people we help don't consider themselves disabled, they just have some impairments or difficulties related to a condition they have. Others feel it is important to "own" their disability and consider it a part of their identity. And finally there are those who are unsure of how to explain their situation, like those dealing with mental health issues. Is anxiety a disability? A disorder? An illness?
People working in the academic community surrounding disabilities have long used the term impairment to describe disabilities as it is deemed to be more positive. Philip Craven, the current President of the International Paralympic Committee, echoes these sentiments:
"Don't use terminology that gives a negative impression. If you need to talk about the blind, visually impaired, deaf or wheelchair users, no problem at all. What the blind person needs is completely different. What the deaf person needs is completely different. So get rid of that D word. I'd far sooner the word impairment was used."
We wanted to ask our readers and followers their thoughts on this issue. Do you find the word disabled negative? Is it too narrowly focused to encapsulate the variety of impairments which exist? Does it depend on where and how you are talking about yourself? Sound off in the comments!