Thursday, September 17, 2009


Disability. I hate that word. Let me tell you why. If we break it down, "dis" means to negate something and ability is obviously ability. So when we label someone with the word disabled we are saying that their abilities are negated or nonexistant. In simpler terms that they are not able. But what are we saying they are unable to do exactly? And why are we limiting them by attaching this label to them? There are many things I am unable to do. I cannot figure skate, or cook anything but pasta, or see two feet away without my glasses, I can't play any sport without breaking something (usually a finger), and I can't play guitar to save my life among many other things. No one came up to me and labeled me as disabled because I can't do any of those things. What happened was I tried and tried and finally decided that it was just something thing I would have to live without. So there are going to be things my son cannot do, and there are things I cannot do. The difference between us is someone took a look at him and said "he is different than us, therefore we doubt his abilities." whereas I was allowed to be myself, and discover my own strengths and weaknesses through trial and error.

I don't want people to point to my son and say to others "that child is disabled." I want people to point to my son and say "that child is Skyler." and if they feel the need to add that is blind then so be it. But, say that he is visually impaired, say that he is blind. These things are true. But do not call my child disabled. In fact what I want above all else is for people not to point at my child at all, but to call his name and say "Skyler come here! I want you to meet ________" that would be the best I could hope for. Unfortunately I am aware that reality is not always the same as what we want for our children. I am hoping that throughout my son's life I will be able to teach him and others around him not to judge him by the label of disabled. I want them to know that yes he is blind, but he is first and foremost a person! He is not someone to be pitied or "helped" (unless he asks for help) just because people don't understand and see him as helpless or pitiable.

I know though that he is "classified" as disabled by our goverment. That classification is what allows him to have special services, access to the CNIB, extra money to pay for the visual aids he will need when he goes to school, the right to have an assistant at school, etc while I am grateful for the assistance they provide I do not agree with the label they have given him in order to justify providing it. And while I agree he is different than most of the kids he will likely go to school with, I don't think that makes him any less able than the rest of them. I think he should be the one to find out just how abled he is.


Mrs. Spit said...

Barb Coloroso has a brilliant rant about the difference between saying an autistic child, and a child who is autistic. She's right, it's a BIG difference!

Stacie said...

Excellent post. Thank you for saying that!

Karen said...

I have mixed feelings on the issue. When my son was having vision problems, disabled wasn't a word anyone used because he could still see fine out of one eye. When my father-in-law had his stroke, disabled seemed exactly right because many of the things he had been able to do were now outside his range of ability. He had been dis-abled.

And generally, I tend to think of the term disabled as being accurate when applied as a description of the body. There is an ability which the majority of us take for granted which Skyler doesn't have. A part of his body does not have an ability which it should. Where the name goes astray is when people make assumptions about activities, interests, thoughts, and feelings that the person can or can't have.

For me, the problem is that any description of any kind of difference (race, religion, medical condition, etc) can be used in a negative way. If you say, "You're so smart," in a sneering way, it's an insult. There is Nothing which can't become derogatory if someone wants it to be that way.