As commenters on this blog, you are welcome to use whatever disability terminology you wish: disabled person, person with disabilities, differently abled, special needs, and so on. I prefer identity-first language (disabled person), but terminology is a matter of personal choice, and I follow a policy of non-interference in other people’s choices.
I don’t mind discussions about the relative merits of different terminologies, but they have to be in the proper context. On this blog, the proper context would be a post that focuses on terminology issues. In that context, everyone is welcome to weigh in. In any other context, I would consider raising the issue a derailment from the focus of the discussion.
No matter what the context, no one is welcome to advise, cajole, or pressure anyone else to use a different kind of terminology, and no one is welcome to tell people they’re doing it wrong. Please respect the ways in which other people wish to be addressed. So, for example, it’s out of line to respond to I’d prefer to be called a disabled person with You’ll always be a person first to me!
Seriously. Don’t do that.
Further, if a person has made a very clear request to be called by one term, and someone else insists on using another term to address that particular person, it is fine for the first person to restate the preference and ask that the other person abide by it.
The reason for all of this is simple: We are all fighting a hard battle. If the terminology that people have chosen helps them to move through the world feeling empowered and beautiful, I want people to feel that their choices are supported.
Not every use of a particular term needs to be an occasion for weighing in on your feelings about it. Please show respect for the choices of others, even if you disagree with them.
© 2013 by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg