By Joe Diorio
I am, as I am sure we all are, familiar with the subject of political correctness, or P.C. I’m not an expert, but I am familiar.
For example, someone isn’t short, so goes the joke, they are “vertically challenged.” I am bald, but the P.C. police prefer I say that I use more toothpaste than shampoo. (OK, I made that one up, but I AM bald, or hair follicle challenged.)
Some commonly used P.C. terms include visually impaired (“blind” is only used when the individual cannot see anything), hard of hearing (similarly, “deaf” is only used when the individual cannot hear anything), intellectually disabled, and “handi-capable” for someone who is physically impaired.
Do these terms go too far? A group of researchers think so.
An article in Rehabilitation Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association, argues that “disability” isn’t a dirty word and is perfectly fine to use in place of clunky terminology like “handi-capable,” “differently-abled,” and even “physically challenged.” Not using the word “disability” can have unintended and adverse consequences.
“Decisions about language have important sociocultural meanings in the disability community, and erasure of the term ‘disability’ can evoke fear and frustration among those who claim a disabled identity and align with disability culture,” the authors say.
“Having a disability is not something to be ashamed of,” says Anjali Forber-Pratt, Ph.D., a professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and one of the six authors of the article. Forber-Pratt and her co-authors all identify as disabled female scholars and psychologists. Forber-Pratt is a former Paralympian and studies identity development at Vanderbilt. The authors are promoting a #SaytheWord social media movement in order to embrace disability identity.
“The field of psychology has a rich tradition of appreciation of cultural diversity and individual difference,” Forber-Pratt says. “Yet, disability has largely been left out of these efforts. The disability movement is moving toward the status of a diverse cultural group with a social justice agenda parallel to those of other marginalized communities.”
The article promotes use of the social media hashtag #SaytheWord to encourage everyone to be comfortable using the term disability, and the hashtag has started a conversation. “I prefer ‘disability’ to ‘unique challenges’ or ‘special needs’ or ‘extraordinary.’ Disability isn’t special. It’s normal,” one person wrote on Twitter. “DISABILITY is not a dirty word!! ‘Access Inclusion Seeker’ is just offensive,” said another person.
By the way, recently Major League Baseball has ceased referring to a list of players injured and unable to play as the “Disabled List” and instead calls it the “Injured List.” I’m all for baseball standing up to #SaytheWord.
Y’all gotta read this
Frequently when I am engaged in conversation here in Nashville someone will stop me and say “Y’all aren’t from around here, are ya?” I grew up in Connecticut, just 50 miles from Manhattan, and apparently my combination of a New Yorker/New Englander accent hasn’t vanished.
In the situation I just mentioned the word “y’all” is being used as a singular pronoun, and there is a share of disagreement as to whether “y’all” is singular or plural. I’m currently reading Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief for Random House publisher, and while he won’t touch the singular/plural argument he argues that non-southerners should never use the term. I did, briefly, after moving here in 2015 but stopped because it didn’t feel right.
Two questions for you, dear readers. Is “y’all” singular or plural? And is it OK for someone living north of the Mason-Dixon line to use the term? Here’s a survey; let me know what you think.
Let’s write carefully out there, y’all.