Ablist Language

Ablist language directed at the blind never used to bother me. It is just so ingrained in the language that I think I got used to it. Things like “How did I miss that? I must be blind.”

Actually, something almost exactly like that statement came up in the chat section of a game I play. It is not a game for the blind, but it has been developed to work perfectly for the blind, using the iphone’s built-in text to speech. Thing is? I did not miss what they did. I picked up on it immediately. Honestly, I think such things are easier for me. The eyes skip over words sometimes. In fact, they do that a lot, and the brain uses pattern recognition to fill in gaps, often imperfectly. The ears don’t work that way.

But this is just an example. Ablist language is everywhere. Now, you may be thinking “So what? How harmful is it really to say that you were blindsided by something? Aren’t we taking this all a bit too far?”

Here’s the thing, though. Ablism is insidious. I doubt that any of you reading this would ever even dream of outright telling a blind person “Hey, blind person, you are less capable than I am.” Because that’s mean, right?

Of course it is.

However. That is precisely what that sort of language is telling blind people. “I must be blind” means that people with sight would never normally miss that, but blind people certainly would. Even when the truth is the opposite.

We see the same thing when we call things we don’t like “lame”. “That party was lame” means that it wasn’t a very good party, that it was lacking. Would you tell someone using a mobility cane that they are lacking? Of course you wouldn’t.

See what I mean about insidious? Now, I do not subscribe to the special snowflake, treat people with disabilities with kid gloves, call them handicapable to spare their feelings school of thought. Honestly, I cringe when anyone uses handicapable as a term. It is patronizing in the extreme. I have no problem with disability, even though it does have connotations of being unable. But as it, in my case, means only that I lack the ability to see, which I clearly do, it’s fine.

But more and more, I am starting to notice and have problems with ablist language. We have trouble enough with feeling as though we are less somehow. When people around us are, without even thinking about it, reinforcing that feeling, it is even more difficult.

I am not saying that people who unthinkingly use those terms are horrible people. I’ve done it. I’m sure you’ve done it, too. We are not horrible people when we do it unthinkingly. Rather, what I am saying is that perhaps we should start thinking about it. Changing habits is difficult, but the first step is becoming aware of what we need to change. You don’t need to profusely apologize if you do slip up and use those terms, that can just make it worse, but just be aware, notice, and try to change.

Because you’re not mean. Because I don’t believe most people would thinkingly tell me, or any other disabled person, that we are less.

Just food for your thoughts.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to http://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every week on Wednesdays.


1 thought on “Ablist Language”

  1. Good reminder Jenn, that we need to think twice before we use hackneyed expressions. I don’t think most people do this maliciously- it’s just a pre-programmed response in their brains. So it takes real effort to eliminate it from our mindless utterances.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s