E-Community Activity: Responding to Labels

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.

Subject: Responding to labels

Read the following email discussion between people with disabilities.

  • Does anybody find that people who aren't disabled spend way too much time thinking up new terms to call "us?" In the '70s and earlier most of us were called "cripples." That seemed a little too cold, so throughout the '80s we were called "handicapped" or "disabled." But now we've gained the phrase "physically challenged." Do you guys feel any different when any of these names are used?
  • When someone says, "What disease do YOU have?" it hurts like hell, no matter how much self-worth I have.
  • No, it doesn't hurt or change anything when I'm called "handicapped," "physically challenged," or "disabled."
  • I hate the word "cripple." I also don't like the word "normal" when it is used to describe people who don't have disabilities. Does this mean "abnormal" is the opposite of "normal?" I never thought of myself as "abnormal"—disabled, malfunctioning, or handicapped perhaps, but never "abnormal."
  • An insight that people who get carried away with labeling need to catch is that we are all disabled, whether our disability is being hair growth impaired, having a crippled tolerance perspective, or just being blind to the feelings of fellow travelers.
  • I believe everybody has a disability of one type or another. I'm right in there with everybody else. Look for people's strengths, not their weaknesses.
  • I think that as with any minority group, there is an unfortunate tendency to assume that all disabled people are like the one or few that an outsider knows. Examples I have faced include assumptions that I must be cold, tired, incapable of comprehending, starved for touching (usually results in a pat on the head), uninterested in athletic events in which I cannot compete myself, destined for an early grave, financially needy, desirous of being approached by strangers, without appreciation of humor....I could go on ad nauseam.

How do different labels for your disability affect or not affect you?