What do you call them? Disabled? People with disability? Or Differently abled? Does the terminologies used even matter? Does it change the fact that people with some form of disability are restricted from a normal life? The world differentially abled seems to have garnered so much spotlight today. So much so, if you mistakenly call any of them “disabled” you will be scrutinized heavily, not as much by the person with disability but the people who advocate and work for the rights of those.
There are arguments if the terminology “differently abled” marginalizes the disabled people and counter arguments as well how the word helps them. Before leaning towards one side it is important to understand why the word “disabled” was deemed unacceptable. The word “Dis” means “not”, so the argument is people being termed disabled are not able to do anything or live a normal social life which is not entirely true. The term “differently abled” must be a good fit then, won’t it?
Lydia (Autistic and Proud) on Autistic Hoya argues that every human is different abled from an objective point of view. Some are good at one thing say singing whereas others are not. Some dance well and some don’t. She says every individual is gifted with unique talent/ability and it is true regardless if people have any impairment or not. Using that word takes the spotlight away from the problems i.e. impairment. It is euphemistic she says. It hides the actual experiences of people with disability. The term moreover suggests that disability is a very bad thing to happen. It stigmatizes them people and the experiences they have been having their whole life. Disability is something that is not fate of an individual. It is what it is. One cannot run away from this. So why not accept the problem as it is. The term differently abled moreover supports the notion that there is only one way to be normal. Only one normal way to walk, one way to talk and so on. Disabled being called differently abled suggests that they deviate from this normality which is exactly the opposite of what the word is all about.
The identity of a human being is multifaceted. There is no one particular part to it but many parts that intersect with each other. Disability is one part, of many, to the identity for people with disability. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is important that an individual disabled person have their own identity. How they define themselves and the word differently abled merely defines them. However, it is not we who decide what is right for the people with disability but themselves only. So, it will be only fitting if they decide what they want to be called.
By: Sujan Rijal