W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > October to December 2001

RE: Language -- am I being too vigillant?

From: Jon Hanna <jon@spinsol.com>
Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2001 19:11:46 -0000
To: "WAI-ig" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Hash: SHA1

> "First, though I feel that political correctness can be taken to
> its extreme, using the wrong terms can be damaging. The prevailing
> theory is to use "people first" language, like "a person who is
> blind" or "users with hearing impairments" because disability
> should not be THE defining characteristic.
> Second, the term "handicapped" is very dated and pejorative -
> analogous to "colored" in referring the African Americans. The
> story goes -- though I have never confirmed, that the term is
> derived from the phrase "hand in cap" referring to beggars."
> My intention was based on my own feelings and what I think is the
> prevailing viewpoint in the community. The response, as shown
> below, surprised and frustrated me.
> Am I taking political correctness too far?

I'd say language is important. Words used colour our views on what
they are used to describe (I can only assume that those who argue
otherwise are incapable of reading poetry).
Apart from politics did nobody ever tell him that "manners cost
nothing"? "Political correctness" can be annoying when used as a tool
to patronise and relieve guilt (or when U.S. broadcasters call Nelson
Mandela an "African American"), but showing a bit of respect to
someone isn't.

F.Y.I. "handicap" does derive from "hand in cap", but not referring
to beggars. It was a game of forfeits and losers would put there hand
in a cap to pick out a forfeit (written on a piece of paper) and it
was from this that the term came to mean a disadvantage. IMHO it is
appropriate to say someone with a disability is handicapped when they
are placed at a disadvantage because of it, but that is not a quality
of the person, and often not innate to the disability either, but to
our societies' reactions to it.

Version: PGPfreeware 6.5.3 for non-commercial use <http://www.pgp.com>

Received on Thursday, 8 November 2001 14:05:43 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 13 October 2015 16:21:15 UTC