The article “Becoming dis-human: thinking about the human through disability” by Daniel Goodley and Katherine Runswick-Cole addresses one huge issue when it comes to “disability” the word itself is very problematic. They address this issue through four considerations. These considerations being: “(1) dis/autonomy, voice and evacuating the human individual; (2) dis/independence, assemblage and collective humanness; (3) dis/ability politics, self-advocacy and repositioning the human; and (4) dis/family: desiring the normal, embracing the non-normative.”. I thought about a lot while reading this article and I kept in mind the prompt question “what would it mean for you to engage in this kind of “troubling” norms?”. Unfortunately, I do engage in these norms every day. I say the word disability whenever describing someone who is differently abled from the norm. This means that I take part in these troubling norms every day. Of course, I would never think that people with “disabilities” are less human than I am. I don’t think anyone who uses the term believes that, but it is in the language. We have seen over and over again how important language can be. The way we word things can affect perspectives, opinions, and it can imply things even unintentionally. The prefix “dis” is often associated with being “anti” or “not” so by saying “disabled” is basically saying “not able” which cannot be further from the truth. Many people who are classified as “disabled” are just as able as the average person.

Of course, all of this got me thinking about what would be a better alternative to the word “disability”, and I honestly could not think of one. I thought perhaps “differently abled” would be less offensive but then I realized that it’s still implying that they are different than others. Plus, being “different” has been known to put a target on someones back for harassment or bullying. I brainstormed for a few more minutes and decided that it’s best not to label people at all. We have seen from our history that labels have never resulted in anything good, all labels are discriminatory. So it’s important not to take part in any of these narratives.

From this perspective, my view of “disability” is completely altered. I had never really considered how the word disability might make others feel. Saying a person is “disabled” is labelling a person and telling them that they are less able than everyone else. When I see the words disability as a way of calling someone dis/human it is really upsetting. I now see it as a way to discriminate against others. I don’t believe that the word disability is meant to be derogatory, I think it was meant as a way to identify whether or not someone could require extra help, for example handicapped parking spaces. Handicapped parking spaces are not called handicapped for the purpose of being offensive they are just meant to help out those who might need it. That being said it doesn’t mean that it is okay to label people. Moving forward I think that I have to be very careful with the way I word things because even if they aren’t intentionally offensive they can still imply something durogatory. I also encourage everyone else to make sure that they are not doing the same thing.




3 thoughts on “Dis/ability

  1. Jess, it was really interesting to read about your thoughts on the way language makes a huge impact on the word disability and how it ultimately has negative effects. I think when we take the word “disability” we do not really think that the implication of the prefix “dis” literally means “not”. This label isolates people in a way that some others do not. I find this especially interesting, in one of our readings it compared disability simulators to doing blackface implying that being “disabled” was just as much a part of a persons being that their skin colour is. When we start to think in the “person first” way that we learned about from our guest speakers I think that is where we will stop seeing as much negativity.
    As far as changing the label, I agree that it is super hard. I think we really need to take into account how the societal “norms” affect the language we use to talk about other people and other groups of people, specifically the “other”. I totally agree that we really have to watch the way we speak and use language to make sure that we are not perpetuating these negative stereotypes and labels.


  2. I really enjoyed reading your blogpost Jess! I like how you pointed out that even yourself takes part in these “norms” because of the language we use in our society. Before taking this class, I did not realize all the different ways I take part in these “norms.” When we had our guest speakers in, I liked how they pointed out that we should work upon making the environment comfortable for people with “disabilities”, rather than making alterations just for the individual and singling them out. As far labelling people with “disabilities,” I agree how that can be very problematic. I like how you pointed out that labelling people never result in positive ways. I think it is extremely important that our society considers the use of our language, and makes a point of not associating people with “disabilities” as “different.”


  3. Hi Jess,
    I found your comments on language interesting, especially in regards to how language and labels can act to separate us. I found the comment “labels have never resulted in anything good, all labels are discriminatory” interesting particularly because I don’t completely agree with it. I agree that there are many labels, such as “disabled”, that can be discriminatory and often lead to othering people, but there is also a sense of unity and power within labels. The best example of this I can give is the label “gay”. It definitely has and can be used in a derogatory sense, and some may argue that it can be used to divide and separate people, but it can also be used to unite. Self-identifying with the term “gay” can give LGBTQ+ people a sense of belonging in a community that also identifies with that label. Not all labels are bad, but it does get into a sort of grey area when it isn’t a person assigning that label to themselves. Thanks for the post!


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