Re: The Difficulty of Talking About Accessibility for the *


In addition to what Wayne said about the person first" protocol, I think it
is simply a matter of being accurate in describing the condition.  You are
never going to satisfy everybody, but here are the rules I use in my own


Blind or visually impaired are appropriate.  Each is accurate and each
describes a different circumstance (although some people believe that blind
is the only word that is accurate, and some don't like to hear it and
prefer VI instead).  Stick with the one that is most appropriate in the
context in which you are using it and avoid wording that lumps all people
into a single category such as, "the blind".

Same advice for deafness and hearing impaired.  They are both accurate and
describe different situations.

Wheelchair users:  Paralyzed seems to be too general and most of my friends
who use wheelchairs would prefer a more definate term such as paraplegic or
quadraplegic (if that is the case), or simply "wheelchair user", or
"someone who uses a wheelchair".  "Wheelchair bound" and "confined to a
wheelchair" are out.

"handicapped" seems to be universally disliked as it is anachronistic and
reinforces the popular notion that people with disabilities are most often
relegated to begging -- cap-in-hand.

"Challenged" is just dismal.  This is the sort of language that was
popularized by people like Jerry Lewis and those of his ilk that continue
to tug on the heartstrings of the bleeding hearts that have absolutely no
understanding of what it means to be a person with a disability, and who
are scared to death that they could become "that way".  It keeps the
disabled population firmly in the medical model in the minds of the general
public, and this is probably the number one barrier, at the systemic level,
which we must overcome before any semblance of equality can be realized.
It is way too PC and just sicky-sweet, and every time I hear it used I feel
like giving a little lecture (but I'm usually more polite than that<grin>.)

I am blind and I'm neither proud of it nor ashamed of it -- it is just a
part of who I happen to be and if people around me feel uncomfortable that
I can say the word "blind", then the problem is theirs and theirs alone.

Hope this helpes as it is based on my own experiences and those of friends
and colleagues of mine with a wide range of disabilities and attitudes
towards them.

-- Jim

James A. Rebman
University of Colorado, Boulder
College of Engineering and Applied Science
Technology - Enhanced Learning Laboratory

         "To accomplish great things we must first dream, then
          visualize, then plan... believe... act!"

          Alfred A. Montapert

Received on Tuesday, 29 September 1998 18:27:53 UTC