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Dave Hingsburger | 12:05 UK time, Thursday, 19 July 2007

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.

• Visit Chewing The Fat


(Corrected text please ignore previous submission)

Gets my vote Dave.

I think the vital thing it has going for it is that, being "new" words, they don't seek to change the established meaning of existing ones and cause confusion and even conflict the way some of the language of our community can at times fall foul of.

As you so rightly point out in this case the words encapsulate both a description of the outcome and attitude and the key explanation for their existence.

I would argue these "virtues" could also readily apply to the use of words like "disablism" and "disablist", if only they could be restricted to situations where the action and attitude is as clearly deliberately motivated rather than being accidental or arising from no thought or motive having been applied at all.

This still, of course, leaves room for yet another "new" word to cover this final group perhaps "Disindifference" could be a candidate. LOL

As for "Disability", as you are aware I have some reservations about the very specific use and meaning applied to this word by some.

I personally would prefer to use the dreaded "H" word instead, not least as using it would encapsulate much of our anger at the attitude, action and outcome of the way the world so often treats us.

This would leave us with a situation where we could all identify with the way the world handicaps us; either deliberately as in the case of Disablism, Through fear because of disphobia or simply by unthinking and uncaring "Disindifference".

I've always liked homophobia because of the etymological irony. The homo in homosexual is basically "alike", so homophobia is not only "irrational fear of homosexuality" but also "fear of something like oneself". Which I like. Because I'm odd like that.

But I also think that homophobia, as a subcategory of sexism, is all about an irrational fear.

When I started Blogging Against Disablism, I chose disablism because it is most commonly used in the UK (although not necessarily mainstream). Ableism I dislike because I don't believe that ability or lack therefore comes into any of this, but it is much more common in the US.

I first saw disphobia on BADD at Chewing the Fat and assumed you had coined it yourself (which I mean nicely; I wouldn't have remembered the fact otherwise).

I do like the sentiment, but to me personally, it does sound rather like lack of phobia; it's construct is a little messy. The prefix 'dis' is commonplace; dis as an abbreviation for disability is very rare. It's also unusual to put a non-Greek word on the front of the Greek phobia - the only exception I can think of is Islamophobia.

Interesting take on the linguistic origins of the terminology Goldfish.

As you are no doubt aware the word homosexual itself can be described as a non standard coupling.

I must hasten to add,of course, this is only because it brings together both greek and latin words in the new word and not for any other reason.

Despite being a "different" way of doing things it is no less valid or acceptable, it just clearly demonstrates the versitility of the english language and its ability to accomodate difference and diversity with more ease than at times those who speak it can. LOL

This is only tangentially related at best, but in the Deaf community--or at least, in the American Deaf community--the word these days is "audism", which is specific to negative attitudes toward (culturally) Deaf people and Deaf culture. (Defined fairly well in Wikipedia: Or some people use the word "audism" a little more flexibly to refer to any discrimination or negative attitude toward Deaf, deaf, or hard of hearing people -- including between different groups of Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing/hearing impaired people.

Or, to see what bloggers say about audism, you can check out my own blog as one starting point, or do a search on the term "audism" over at which is basically a site that aggregates the RSS feeds for a lot of Deaf bloggers, along with bloggers that write about Deaf (or deaf or hard of hearing) issues in general.

  • 5.
  • At 03:17 PM on 20 Jul 2007, Chris Page wrote:

I agree about "coming out" but I define myself as Disabled purely in terms of the political status thrust upon me by the expression of a kind of passive superiority, based on the way my body or brain functions relative to no-disabled people.

  • 6.
  • At 04:58 AM on 27 Jul 2007, Jesse the K wrote:

I deeply appreciate the discussion, because this lack of the "name for the problem" has been bugging me for decades.

My candidate is "normate bigotry" or "normativity." My problem with "fear" (phobia) is it's about feelings. Too much of our political discourse has been taken over by therapeutic metaphor.

Bigotry or worshiping the normal are acts.

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