Disabled Person And The Able-Bodied

The opposite to the term disabled person is neither able-bodied nor normal. A more appropriate term is non-disabled person. How do we define able-bodied? Do the abilities to walk and climb steps make a person able-bodied? Does having 20/20 vision makes one able-bodied? Should people who wear glasses be considered disabled persons? After all, without their spectacles, the activities of these people will be rather limited too.

There is also a reason why I depart from the convention by using disabled person instead of person with disabilities (PWD). The acronym PWD is used in all United Nations documents and universally accepted as the term to indicate a person’s condition such as physical, visual, speech and intellectual impairments. My rationale is that the term person with disabilities puts the burden of disability on the person.

On the other hand, disabled person connotes that a person is disabled by factors other than his condition. This is clearly laid out in the Social Model of Disability that propounds that people are disabled by prejudices, misconceptions and discrimination rather than by their conditions. Removing these factors which include environmental barriers and attitudes removes the disability to a very large extent.

On the same note, the term disabled person or disabled people should also not be substituted with the disabled or disabled. The use of these two latter terms as a collective noun or an adjective is a form of social segregation and stereotyping, implying that this group of people are separate and different from mainstream society. Disabled people possess feelings, intelligence, and capable of loving and be loved, just like everyone else. Oftentimes, terms like these are used inadvertently. Lets make it a point to use the appropriate terms from this point onwards.

Related link:
Label Jars, Not People

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

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