We are all able!

Opinion Piece

There are so many guidelines on how to communicate about disability: say people with disability rather than disabled people; use the term accessible access not disabled access; put the person first e.g. person with vision impairment, person with physical disability.

The list is very long indeed.  But here’s the thing – why don’t we just put the person first and leave it there?

I’m not sure what’s so strange about this concept. I don’t introduce my friends or family by saying this is my sister with brown hair, or meet my friend who is very tall, or this is my colleague who has brown skin. In some environments, when I introduce people, I’ll add an interest they might have in common.  Meet my sister, she’s an artist, this my friend who teaches yoga, or my colleague here runs marathons.

When you look at the definitions of Able, Disable and Disability in the dictionary it gives pause for thought. Able – having the power, skill, means, or opportunity to do something. Every one of us, no matter who we are, has the ability to do something. Do we remove someone’s opportunity to do something when we label them?

Disability – a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. The key word here is ‘limits’. Not stops. Limits. When we label someone, we disable them. [Disable-put out of action].

Todays communities are made up of thousands of individuals and who are all completely different. Diversity is what makes us so unique, we all have something to offer and most of us want to be accepted and included in our local communities, not as someone who is labelled, just as a human being.

Perhaps if we change the way we think then our actions will follow. When we treat someone as a person, not as someone with a disability, we support their opportunity to be part of the community. What we perceive as charity simply becomes kindness. Some may be dependent on others to do something, but the way we support them shouldn’t remove their independence.