Let’s talk language
Disability is a sensitive topic. Fear of saying something wrong prevents people from having conversations about disability.
Are the terms “disability” and “disabled” the same? Disability and disabled both describe functional limitations. The term disability is used to refer to individual functioning, including physical, sensory, cognitive, and various types of chronic disease. Many activists and academics prefer to use the term “disabled” in a way that focuses on the disability being part of a person’s identity, as in “disabled person”.
The change to “people-first language” brought the term “people with disabilities”, which emphasizes putting the person first and the disability second. In Canada, the government uses “people-first” language.
Some people outside of the disability community tend to use euphemistic terms like “differently-abled” or “diverse-ability”. This suggests that there is something wrong with talking candidly about disability. This is not necessary. For most, referring to someone as a “person with a disability” or being “disabled” is fine.
Another term you may have heard is ableism. Ableism can be defined as the “ideology of ability,” in which life without disability is preferable to life with disability. In this way of thinking, disability is a problem that needs to be eradicated.
Ableism is considered prejudice and discriminatory toward individuals. For example, when business owners create physical or virtual spaces that are not accessible, they are posing barriers for people with disabilities, displaying an ablistic attitude.