A recent situation and article I read made me really contemplate how much our language can really disempower and limit people with disabilities. I guess “Ableism” is the best term to encapsulate this!
I often walk my two cavoodles to my local cafe and get my caffeine fix before work.
My younger dog Molly has taken to sitting in my frame’s basket. Cute huh?
So, whilst I soak up the morning’s sunshine & sip my warm coffee, Molly chooses to stay curled up in her wire haven.
Common remarks from passers by include-
“That is so adorable!”
“How lucky is she to get a ride!”
However, today an elderly lady stopped in front of us. She pointed her wrinkly finger at Molly and, after catching her breath, muttered to her friend –
“Look at that poor dog in that chair!”
Obviously disgusted, she stood at a distance and asked-
“Is it handicapped, poor thing?”
I felt quite thrown by her words. My protective motherly tendency kicked in. Defending my fur baby I said-
“No, she’s not disabled, but I am’. I continued “…and she’s certainly not poor, just lazy!”
I’m sure the lady didn’t intentionally use discriminatory language. However, her ableism slurs were certainly disempowering.
The article I read speaks about disability terms to use and not use. The powerful influence of language in shaping peoples’ perception and the culture of disability.
Perhaps become mindful of the language you use when referring to people ( or animals) with disabilities….
Is labelling Molly “handicapped” or “cute” more empowering?