Thursday, May 10, 2012

Disability.... Is it Really Such An Ugly Word??

I’ve heard this a few times now over the years and surprisingly (although I am not 100% sure on this) the individuals I hear say this are ones who are non-disabled.
Disability is definitely a negative word, I’ll give you that, but not ugly. Not horrible, nor bad, nor sad. A person who has a disability is not wrong in any way and does not need to be fixed. The word says that that person is perhaps dealing with a discomfort(s) or challenge(s) toward every day life; but that is it.  In fact, I could even go as far as saying that someone with a disability is someone who has, and probably still is, displaying a pretty incredible amount of strength and patience.
Some of us that happen to be going through life with a disability, and I include myself on this list, offer many abilities, talents, knowledge and a hunger for life. People with disabilities also face similar stresses and frustrations and heartaches. Sometimes more stress, frustration and heartache, along with other issues, come in multiple doses. This is where the negativity of the word disability comes in. 

I suspect that the reason the word may take on an ugly connotation in mainstream society is because of the definition or definitions it is given.(because you can find slightly different ones everywhere)
The worst definition I ever read was this: Disability= "separated from or lack of talent, power, expertise, capability, skill, competence or aptitude.”

Most definitions you look up online or find in the infinite number of different dictionaries that get used are sometimes, on the surface, not all that bad. But when you really look at what you’re reading I think people are picking up, and sticking with, words such as: problem(s), impairment(s), difficult(y)(ies). With ALL of the different definitions it can also be very confusing, which does not help.

When it comes to the workplace particularly, but social circles as well, people with disabilities will continually be looked down upon if we keep thinking or saying that the word disability is ugly; it’s not. The word disability does not describe me, just as the word ability does not describe me. If there is one single word that describes me, I can assure you that it is neither one of those.

I would not be offended to hear you say: “Mark, you have a disability.” but “Mark, you’re a f#@k*ng idiot!” That, I would be offended by.
So don’t be afraid to say the word, there is no need for embarrassment. Don’t hide or dodge it either, it is what it is. I think we tend to make more out of something when there is no need. The word disability, perhaps, if a part of every day life, (non ugly) may truly bring us all around to an accepting and inclusive society.

Just remember, someone may have a disability, but it does not mean that the disability has them.


  1. Mark, it's true. "Disability" is often seen as ugly. Yet, there are so many ways we are disabled.