People use disablist language all the time and oftentimes don’t even realize it. I, personally, am hurt when people use the word lame to talk about something they don’t like – because that is me – I am lame (sometimes) and I am someone’s reference point for something unlikeable.
Here are some of the more common disablist words that people tend to use. Think about the language that you use and how it work to reinforce negative views of disabled people and work to change it.
For a discussion about why I now use the term disablism rather than ableism, click here.
|What You Said||What You Meant to Say||Origin, and other tid-bits|
|Blind||Careless; ignorant; insensitive; oblivious; rash; thoughtless; unaware;
|Confined to a wheelchair||Wheelchair user.||This implies that wheelchairs imprison people which is far from the truth. Wheelchairs help people get around and are libratory rather than confining.|
|Crazy||Batty; bizarre; busy; chaotic; erratic; intense; odd; ridiculous; strange; weird.||Actually people who are described as crazy are usually people who deviate from social norms, are marginalized and/or who see hear or experiences things others don’t.|
|Cretin||Obnoxious; clown; creep; loser||From the French meaning “dwarfed and
|Crip[ple]||Disabled; break; hurt; immobilize, incapacitate; sideline; undermine||“Crip” has been reclaimed by some disabled people and is used with pride. Used by non-disabled people, it is offensive.The word “cripple” as a verb, means to break or make unworkable and is always offensive.|
|Crutch||Prop; need; support||Something you are dependent on and cannot get by without. It has a negative connotation when used this way but crutches are not negative in the lives of the people who use them.|
|Deaf||Not listening; oblivious; obstinate; pigheaded; stubborn; unhearing||Cultural group.|
|Disable[ed]||Break; bust; damage; destroy; disarm; hurt; mar; ruin; sabotage||To make unable to move or act, to render inoperative.|
|Dumb||Bad; defective; inadequate; ineffective; ridiculous.||Non-speaking.|
|Duh||Hello; as if; what?||Allegedly, this is the sound people with
intellectual disabilities make.
|Gimp||disabled||This word has been reclaimed by some physically disabled people (much more in Canada than in the United States by my observation).|
|Handicapped||disabled||In game play, this is an advantage (i.e. spotting points) given to one of the players to equalize the odds as they are unable to win on their own. Some people believe that this term was applied because people on the streets were pan-handling with their caps in hand.|
|Insane||Batty; bizarre; busy; chaotic; erratic; intense; odd; outlandish; ridiculous; strange; weird.||The origin of sane is healthy, so insane means unhealthy.|
|Lame||Bad; boring; cheesy; faulty; inadequate; inefficient; insufficient; unconvincing; unpersuasive; unpleasing||Derogatory term for physically disabled,
particularly referring to one’s gait.
|Moron(ic)||Absurd; haphazard; nerd; loser; ridiculous; screw up||The psychological term refers to one who has a mild intellectual disability.
From Greek for foolish.
|Needy||Deprived; demanding; high-maintenance; lacking;||Everyone is interdependent. Rugged individualism is just another way of saying that someone doesn’t recognize their support network.
This word should not exist because it puts those who acknowledge and vocalize their needs into a negative context. Negative term for someone who ‘wants too much.’
|Nuts||Batty; bizarre; busy; chaotic; erratic; intense; weird|
|Psycho||Batty; bizarre; busy; chaotic; erratic; intense; weird; wild||Short for psychopath.|
|Paralyze||Daze; debilitate; freeze; halt; incapacitate; numb; petrify; stun.|
|Retard[ed]||Ass; blockhead; dork; loser; nerd; shithead.||The origin is slow, or late (tardy).|
|Schizo||Scattered; all over the place||Short for schizophrenic.|
|Sick||Bad; disgusting; displeasing; revolting; gross; sadistic||Also, sick is being used to mean something positive now.|
|Spaz||all over the place; Batty; clumsy; everywhere at once; energetic; goofy;
hyper; inept; squirrelly
|From the word spastic or spasm.|
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