The Right Way to Refer to a Person with a Disability

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The Right Way to Refer to a Person with a Disability



I know, I know – if you are an “abled-body” person it might come off a little confusing on how you should approach the topic of disability or approach someone with a disability. There is always one thing to remember, that a disabled person, is still just a person.

I have been a part of the disabled community for a little less than 3 years now, and boy, was it difficult to adjust, to learn the lingo that’s appropriate, and of course, everything that once was so easily accessible was now not so easily or not at all accessible, etc. There are a lot of words that are seen as awful and quite frankly offensive. Now, I know that some people just don’t care and that’s certainly a shame but inevitable, there will always be people who pick and poke and have no moral or ethical values for others even those without disabilities – I’ve crossed paths with too many to count, that’s just life. I am talking to those that love us, those that are our families, our friends, people who want to understand and do and say the right things because they do have morals. Here’s to you, I’d like to firstly say that it is okay to be a little nervous about saying something offensive. That nervousness is a sense of change, and change is good. When you stop worrying about offending those who are just trying to live their life, that is when the change has halted and that is not something you should aim for.

When is a word okay or how is a certain word okay? If the word that your friend or loved one is okay with isn’t okay with someone else, what do you do? It’s aggravating, right? I get it, trust me, even inside of the amputee community people get offended when I call my residual limbs, “stumps” or “nubs,” in reality it’s just what one prefers. And don’t ever think that it’s your duty to know what every single person’s offense button is, that’s impossible. However, it’s up to you to put effort into learning what the people you care about prefer, not to know instantly.

If there was a girl, like me, who finds humor in making fun of the traditional and super offensive connotations that were once used to refer to people with disabilities and refers to herself as “crip” or “gimp,” that does not give you the “permission” to refer to me as much. It’s confusing, but, if for example, you think of yourself as fat – like when I’ve eaten a little too much garbage over the course of, hmmm, my whole life, and think out loud while unbuttoning my screaming pants that, “I am so fat! Ughhh!” If someone were to outright say that, “Hey Myah, you are SO fat.” That would be pretty offensive, amiright?

While there is no “universal agreed guideline” to what people can and can’t say necessarily, there are things that you just don’t say, and trust me, they’re obvious.

Lastly, there is no real answer to this question, because I am most certain, that there will always be someone else writing on the same topic telling you something completely different. Just use common sense and when you don’t know… Ask.