I don’t hate the word disability, but I despise the word disabled – especially when I see it in a headline like this one, or worse, this one. “The disabled” is a lazy way of grouping people with a loose – very loose! – commonality. Sometimes it’s to elicit a sympathetic response, but that doesn’t make it okay.
Yes, I’m a bit of hypocrite with this one, because I do kinda love it when strangers come up to me and tell me that my softball-playing daughter with cerebral palsy is inspiring. But I’m good with it in that context because I know that people love rooting for the underdog because underdogs make us all want to work a little harder and do a little more.
But when I see the word inspiring in a headline? Gag.
3. Down (as in “Down syndrome”)
Down syndrome was named for John Langdon Down, the man who first discovered it. Down asserted that it was a genetic regression (yes, that’s as bad as it sounds) unique to people of Mongolian descent (yep, he threw in a racist element, too), which is why for nearly a century people with Trisomy 21 were referred to as “mongoloids.”
I would prefer to never ever ever use the phrase “Down syndrome” on this blog, but because “trisomy 21” is much less familiar in our societal vernacular, I keep it in. I don’t want an expectant mom with a new diagnosis (or one of her friends or family members) to miss out on a helpful message because I don’t like to commemorate Mr. Down’s “accomplishment” here.
Note: the man who discovered its cause – Trisomy 21 – was NOT Down. That man’s name was Jerome LeJeune and he’s much more worthy of accolades, in my view.
Special has become a euphemism for weird – and that’s being … generous. UrbanDictionary.com is a bit more targeted in their definitions, and they aren’t kind. Unfortunately, “special” is part of the vernacular of my world, so I’ll keep holding my nose and using it, in the header of this blog, in my ebook, and as a hashtag on Twitter.
5. The R-Word
No, not that one, Slate magazine. This one that is not only offensive, but devalues people with intellectual disabilities. It’s also hackneyed, unoriginal and evidence of laziness by the user (Tip: the first person to complain about censorship in the combox gets deleted!)