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Is it time to stop using the word “disability”?

Disabled parking sign

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After running a campaign to urge toy manufacturers to include disabled characters in their collections, Rebecca Atkinson started to wonder if the word “disability” might also need a positive makeover.

Cripple, deaf-mute and lame all fell out of favour a long time ago and are now considered insults. By the 1980s and 90s “handicapped” was gradually replaced with “disabled” as a new way of thinking about disability emerged – called the social model. Attitudes change and as a consequence so does language.

Recently there has been a shift towards person-first language and now “people with disabilities” is often more popular in general usage over its predecessor “disabled people”. I have noticed too that people in the disability community sometimes like to emphasise the “ability” part of the word with hyphens or capital letters: dis-ability or disAbility.

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