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Archive for January, 2015

Do the words disability and handicapped mean the same thing?

This is the second in a series of posts to explain some of the basic ideas of inclusion and normalization.

The first was from one of my heroes Norm Kunc. Norm Kunc| What’s Your Credo?

If you find these useful, I hope you will comment and then share them on Facebook, Twitter and your other social media. Thanks. Mary

Words and labels make a big difference in our lives. How you answer this question can make all the difference for a person you love.

“Disability” or “Handicapped”?

Do the words disability and handicapped mean the same thing?

The short answer is NO. Disability and handicapped do not mean the same thing. And the differences are important. Is Stevie Wonder handicapped?

Does Stevie Wonder have a disability?

“A DISABILITY refers to a reduction of function or the absence of a particular body part or organ.”

So YES, Stevie Wonder, who is blind, would qualify as a person with a disability.

A disability is usually a lifelong condition: autism, an intellectual disability (the new term for mental retardation), cerebral palsy, or being deaf or blind….

Does Stevie Wonder have a handicap?

“A HANDICAP is viewed as a disadvantage resulting from a disability that limits or prevents fulfillment.”

Does being blind prevent Stevie Wonder from singing or achieving personal fulfillment as an entertainer? NO. So Stevie Wonder, though he has a disability, does not have a handicap.

Does Stevie Wonder need support? Of course. If Stevie Wonder did not have a personal assistant or any of the other modifications and adaptations he needed, then he might be handicapped.

See the difference?

Terrence Parkin swam in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, winning a Silver Medal for South Africa. Does he have a disability? Yes, he is deaf. Does he have a handicap? Not as long as they add strobe light signals to the usual auditory buzzer to start the race. If however, the committee didn’t agree to add the strobe lights, then Terrence would have been handicapped and unable to participate in the Olympic Summer Games. Being handicapped can depend on the attitudes and social construction of the culture.

Disability is socially constructed

Like many people my age, I have trouble reading small print, (Disability). If I lived in a society where there were no books, or it was against the law to teach women to read, it might not matter if my eyesight was as sharp as it was when I was younger. However, in my culture, so many people wear glasses there is no stigma attached to having the disability of poor eyesight. So, I do not have a handicap. If I use a wheelchair and the building is accessible, I can still have a disability, but I can go to the grocery, do my banking… and not be handicapped. (I hope this makes sense. We will talk more about this in a future post.)

Why is this important?

If you or someone you love has a disability, it is not the end of the world. Even though there might not be a medical miracle or cure at this time, the disability is just a disability. No one wants to be different than anyone else. No one wants to have a harder time doing things than other people, but with the right supports it is possible to have a fulfilling and satisfying life, and not be handicapped.

This is a message full of hope. Robert Schuller says, “Look at what you have left, not what you have lost.” Physical, Occupational, Speech Therapists, Teachers, Counselors, as well as family members, friends and neighbors can look at their attitudes toward a person with a “disability” and rather than get stuck on something they can’t fix, instead spend their energy on creating an inclusive environment that is accessible for all of us.

This is our call to action: We can each think about what we can add, subtract or change to the environment to give a person with a disability the support they need so they will never have to be handicapped.

In the comments tell me what you are thinking. Do you have a story to share? How are you making your child or loved one less handicapped?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All my best,

Mary

Reference:
Bauer and Shea (1997) Special education: A social systems perspective. Brown and Benchmark: Chicago.p. 12.

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Just learned from Katie Snow of Disability is Natural:

LANGUAGE CHANGE!

Thanks to the hard work of the Advocacy Leadership Network (ALN) of Hamilton County (Ohio) DD Services, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners officially resolved that “accessible” will replace “handicapped” on all new and replacement signs in the county! ALN, composed of leaders who have disabilities, had previously been instrumental in having the phrase “mental retardation” removed from state laws in Ohio.

“Disability,” “Handicapped,” Aimee Mullins and survival of the fittest.

Aimee Mullins Rocks

Aimee Mullins at the TED conference


Is that a WOW or What?

TED is for the “thought leaders” of our generation. I’m so glad Aimee Mullins stood up in front of the world and talked about the words we use, the way we tell stories, our prejudices about people with disabilities and our ability to change and influence lives.

I’m thrilled she is beautiful, an accomplished athlete, and can deliver a message with the best communicators in the world. Chalk one up for our side. Aimee you did us proud.

Language

I was really struck by the definitions. Yes, even in 2010 the words “disability” and “handicap” carry such derogatory connotations. Every time I hear the traffic report and they say, “there’s a disabled blocking the west lane” I just cringe.

I recently spent some time looking up the words: “retarded, moron, idiot and imbecile” and their histories (click here for related article).

Aimee talking about the negative effect these labels would have made on her when she was a young child was sobering. (See related article on the difference between handicap and disability.)

I particularly liked Aimee’s references to Darwin. Our ability to adapt, change, and transform determines the “survival of the fittest”.

Inclusion is our “survival of the fittest.”

This is why I believe in inclusion I agree it means the difference between survival and a decent quality of life. (related article).

Inclusion is about adapting, changing and transforming. It is about blending into the normal population the same way animals learn to camouflage themselves into their environments

The medical doctor saying that she was an example of the “X” factor was my takeaway moment.

WE ARE THE X FACTOR.

If you are interested in my take on the differences between the label of “disability” and “handicapped” (click here). I would love to be able to pass this information on to Aimee. Perhaps it might help.

Come Dance With Me: Share your thoughts.

Were there any new ideas? Which of Aimee’s stories did you think were the most powerful? Do you have any stories about Medical or Educational professionals? What message would you want to send to Aimee? To her parents? To the medical professionals? If you had a chance to be a thought leader, what would you talk about?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All my best, Mary