Today on Twitter, someone informed me I was a person. This may sound weird but if you’re a disabled person who tweets about the injustices we live with it’s actually a regular occurrence.
This is because I am a disabled person – I don’t identify as a disabled person, I am one – and proudly use the term on my platforms. However many people, mainly non-disabled people, don’t like this. They think the person should come before the disability. They feel the need to tell me I’m a person WITH a disability.
Y’know, in the same way that I’m a person WITH bisexuality. Yeah, see how weird that looks?
They tell me I’m dehumanising myself and making it all about my disability, because disability is a derogatory word. I’m putting myself at a disadvantage.
What they don’t understand is how empowering the disability community has been in my journey in claiming my power as a disabled woman. That I am not the one dehumanising and disadvantaging myself, society does it every single day.
We don’t call non-disabled people “a person with no disabilities” so why would we call disabled people “people with disabilities” unless of course you don’t consider disabled people in the same regard as non-disabled people.
The argument of “disabled people” or “people with disabilities” is, as with a lot of things with disability, one of those that’s sort of entrenched in ableism, but with the best interests at heart. It’s supposed to focus on the personhood and look past our disabilities.
The problem with this is that is assumes that we’re ashamed of our disabilities and don’t want to accept them as part of who we are.
I’ve been disabled for most of my life, there’s not a single part of my day to day life that it doesn’t affect. So for someone to tell me my disability isn’t an important part of me, actually incredibly invalidates me.
Of course not all disabled people use disability first language and many do prefer person first language. In this instance it’s always best to respect the person’s wishes. However it’s again worth emphasising that saying someone is disabled isn’t an insult.
If a disabled person is telling you what they use to describe themselves, it’s just damn rude to tell them that they’re wrong. Who do you even think you are to do that?
You don’t need to tell me I’m a person. I already know that. I was never dehumanising myself in the first place, you were by taking away my right to identify as a disabled person.
I’m not putting myself down or disabling myself further by identifying as disabled. The access needs and prejudice I face every day won’t suddenly cease to exist if I begin to call myself a person with a disability.
If you think disability is a bad word, it’s probably because you think disability is bad.
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