All social labels fail at some point. “Disabled” is one that fails the most.
We see another person walking down the sidewalk and we automatically assign this person to a particular group of people. We give this person one of many social labels that have been adopted over time. Perhaps to better organize itself, society has developed labels for each of the people groups from which it is composed.
One such label is “disabled.” Society has developed this label to categorize individuals with special needs. However, this is a bad label. All social labels fail at some point, and “disabled” is one that fails the most. Here are five reasons why this is true.
- It is an inaccurate description. Immediately, it states the person is not capable. Disabled’s definition states the person is limited in some way, but does that not describe every person at some level? An individual with special needs has just as fulfilling of a life and is just as capable of contributing to society as an individual who does not have special needs.
- It leaves the person out. Using the label “disabled” to describe someone leaves many details undescribed. Society classifies me as “disabled” because of a visual impairment, but if society stops there, a lot is missed. This description leaves out personality, interests, family, and accomplishments. Using this label turns one aspect of my life into the focal point of my biography.
- It sends a negative message to the person. Telling someone he or she is disabled is instantly sending a negative message. It is saying the person is not able to do something. This is especially harmful if the person is a child. We should encourage all kids to strive to make their dreams a reality, not send a negative message with an inaccurate label.
- It obscures society’s view. Using the word disabled introduces a negative label. It immediately brings attention to what the person is not able to do. Classifying someone as “disabled” causes skills to be overlooked, and the focus to go directly to special needs rather than what the individual is able to contribute.
- It creates unnecessary barriers. People with special needs have enough barriers to overcome without society creating more by using such language. Referring to someone as “disabled” brings assumptions to most people’s minds. These assumptions create barriers, especially in the job market, yet those with special needs have the potential to make excellent employees.
“Disabled” is a label which negatively and inaccurately describes individuals. It causes individuals to be overlooked or even written off by others. This can result in difficulty and discouragement. “Disabled” is one label which fails the most.
It is unfortunate society uses labels to describe anyone. There is no quick and easy answer to the labeling problem. Accommodations must be made for those of us who have special needs, and there has to be a way to communicate this in society. For now, using the label “disabled” is what has been chosen. Perhaps there is a better way. Join in this conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.
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