Disability and terms used

28 Dec

Disability and terms used

I have been following a hot discussion on social networks about terms used to mention “disability” of a person. In the recent speech of Mann Ki beat by Shri. Narendra Modi, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, he has appealed country to call people with disabilities as “DIVYANG”; which means a person with divine abilities and this has triggered community of people with disabilities to think through.

For several years there are words used like Blind, Visually Handicapped, Physically Handicapped, Deaf and Dumb, Mentally rEtarded, Mentally Handicapped etc., and there wasn’t much of a problem though term sounds a bit rude. But for a bout a decade or so, people started using terms like “Challenged, differently abled, special needs, specially abled” etc., These terms have absolutely no meaning. Let’s take a few words and see their meaning:

  • Challenged: Let’s say “visually challenged” – what are they challenging? are they challenging vision loss? Challenging means you are oppose to something and you are willing to prove it wrong. Can people with vision impairment drive a car and win challenge with vision loss?
  • Differently abled: Well, what are the different abilities do people with disabilities have? It’s only that that they rely on assistive aids and adopt to techniques but there is “different ability” that exist to people with disabilities. In fact, this term should be used to anyone who has a unique ability.
  • Special needs: OK, every human being needs something or other different than everyone else and not only people with disabilities expect something special. Yes, people with disabilities need assistive aids and technologies but for that matter everyone need something or the other differently. Even when traveling, a few travel in second class, a few travel in First class; do we call travelers in first class as travelers with special needs?

Now coming to word “Divvying” as suggested by The Prime Minister Mr. Modi. From the speech, my understanding is that Mr. Modi’s intention is to let the world know though some people have limitations with one organ, they may have extraordinary power with another organ. And probably with his nature of spiritual mindset, his thinking may be right. I believe, his meaning is that as people with disabilities rely on other organs more to adopt to their limitations and it’s God who have provided strength to accept limitations.

That said, it’s really not essential to work too much on refining these words instead should spend time to improve infrastructure, policies and much more needed things to empower people with disabilities. It’s right sign that India has started Accessible India Campaign and it’s time to push for passing of New Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill which is due for a long time.

As far as words are concerned, I think one should just go with “People with Disabilities” as mentioned by the United Nations. Moreover, it’s not the words that really matters but how we are including people with disabilities into the mainstream is the key.

So let’s get back to work and focus on much needed initiatives.

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BySrinivasu Chakravarthula

I am an enthusiast of accessibility and classical music.

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