I've read with interest as others have discussed the various models of disabilities and find myself informed and challenged. All I know about it is that at home, where the house has been adaped to my specific needs, I feel that my disability intrudes little in how I live my life, when I'm in a part of the world not adapted for my needs, I feel much more encumbered by getting around and getting things done. But, that's not what I want to write about today. I have noticed that a lot of people use the word 'ableist' to describe attitudes or prejudices regarding disability.
A new word that I have found popping up on webs and in discussion is a word that I much prefer and a word that I promote in my lecturing and training. "Disphobia" as the phenomenon and "Disphobic" as the word to describe the attitude. I like this word for several reasons, many of them petty. I find it easier to say, I think it looks better in print. But more than that I also find that when I use the word in context like saying "That's a disphobic attitude' people understand my point without me having to define it. Whenever I say 'ableist' people look at me blankly. But that may simply be a Canadian phenomenon.
Too, I like the world because I think that what we experience as people with disabilities is akin to what gay people experience. In fact a writer from the disabled community in the United States, whom I often quote about this but whose name I have forgotten, said something like, "The gay community and the disabled community are twin communities because we both have parents that would wish us different if they could." She pointed out that disabled people like gay people live in families that are essentially quite different from us and in some ways quite distant from us.
Similarly, we as disabled people have to come out to ourselves and others as disabled. We have to move away from "I'm just like everyone else" to "I have the rights of everyone else even though I'm different from them." Indeed there are disabled people who are entirely in the closet - even if only to themselves. Whey you have a Prime Minister, for example, who ... let's say ... can't see for trying ... who says, "What! ME? Disabled. No, never really felt disabled a day in my life." One understands the need to self identify as having a disability to oneself and then to identify with the disabled community.
So, Disphobia is the word for me and I will continue to confront bigots for their disphobic attitudes. You might want to do a search on the web and find that there are several British websites using the words - oh and you'll find that there's a punk band of the same name - and then consider if this word might have a better chance to 'take off' in public parlance than 'ableism' or 'ableist' which I never hear outside the rhelmn of really well informed disabled writers and speakers.
Alright, I'm curious, what do you all think of the word.
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