Puting the y in Dysability

The terms used to describe dysabled people have radically changed over the last 200 years as many terms are corrupted, with many terms ending up being now used as derogatory insults.

The term disability replaced handicapped as the main term in the early 1980s, and it has lasted well, where Disabled people is a wholly accepted term. But over the last 5 years, I feel the term has lost its meaning and now used too widely to described too many people.

This corruption has been entirely political, ‘being disabled’ is now instantly linked with welfare, poverty and cuts by the media’s endless onslaught. The lines between illness, sickness, impairment and disability has been blurred so much that a touch of stress means you can refer to yourself and be referred to as a disabled person, with few people even blinking!

Disability means a lack of ability and many newcomers to impairment equate that to ‘I can’t’. ‘But I am disabled’ is now a brick wall people can put it to excuse their unwillingness to even try to do anything they do not wish to do. Political correctness has turned any attempt to challenge people’s notions of their ability into a breach of their human rights, or even a hate crime.

A few months ago I decided I had to move myself away from this madness and use a new term. Many terms like ‘differently able’ and ‘physically challenged’ have come and gone, mainly because they tried to ignore the issues. I have chosen Dysability, a term I briefly used in the 1990s. Back then, I was younger, inexperienced and lacked authority, so I dropped it. I have now revived it with a greater understanding of what it means.

Dysability basically means a difficulty in ability, and I believe this is more in line with the social model. Impairments are the biological differences we have that are mostly perceived to negatively affect our function. We have difficulties in being fully contributing citizens because of the way society is constructed in terms of the built environment, attitudes, and so far not fully understood, how we do things.

The thing with difficulties is they can normally be overcome in one way or another through changes, adaptations and/or support. Therefore the term Dysability is not only a new term to describe people, but a new positive but realistic term for people to define themselves, as capable people with difficulties. I believe this different mindset compared to that of disability will have major consequences to how people see their relationship with society, from victim to interdependent partner.

I am not going to make this into a campaign. I am using this term as I know what it means. If others want to embrace the term, that is great, I only want people to use the term if they understand what it means to them. We will then have to watch this space to see if and how the usage of the term will grow.

– If you like what I say, have a look at my website at http://www.simonstevens.com or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74

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