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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Wheelchair Philosopher presents three overused 'politically correct' terms

THIS is a physical challenge!
Read the Double Dare  blog post here at

I'm a child of the 1980s and as such, I was born at a veritable mid-point between the American Civil Rights Moment, the death of Disco and the birth of Hip Hop, automated teller machines, the rise of Bill Gates and Microsoft, AIDS awareness and space shuttle science -- science that gave us things like cell phones and Google Earth. Then somehow, someway, in some random particle accelerator or something, we human beings came up with the concept of political correctness or "PC." Toilet paper became "toilet tissue". The exterminator became "pest control". Janitors became "custodians" and strippers became "exotic dancers." Unfortunately, those of us living with disabilities were not spared the egregious agony of the PC world. Here are three terms that one might find generally annoying if  for no other reason than that they are not helping progress civilization toward a more tolerant and understanding world as these terms lead some people to believe

physically/mentally challenged - This is a non-descriptive term and also what's called a "loaded statement" like saying, "I'm the best in the world at what I do," it means nothing because it can mean anything. Are you the best at woodworking, brushing your teeth, serial killing or playing Playstation 3 in the nude? By a similar token, if I say I'm physically challenged, am I physically challeged by not being able to open the plastic force field on my DVD boxed set of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe? Could it be that  I am physically challenged by the literal physical challenge of the classic Nickelodeon game show Double Dare? Or am I mentally challenged by  the IQ test  I just took?  No matter the situation, rarely, if at all, should this language be applied to a disability.

differently abled - Though this one is supposed to replace dis-abled, and while I agree that being defined by what I cannot do is not a very cool thing, once again, this term means crap in a hat nothing. We are all differently abled. Derek Jeter is great at baseball and Bill Gates knows binary code better than a lot of us. So #$%&@$* what?

special needs - Despite the fact that I actually used this term  the other day, I still hate it. It completely takes away from the true special needs we all have. Some of us are hungry right now, some not. Some of us need more or less money than others. Saying a person has special needs is like saying, " I need to pay off my college loan," or "I need a new liver or I will die" -- the latter being quite special to a person  who is on his or her deathbed, wouldn't you say? A disability is indeed a special circumstance which often deals with particular special needs, but for the love of reality, a person's needs are always unique to the time and place and way in which they occur. Everything that exists has a special need for something: The soil needs rain to nourish itself, Tigers need to hunt for food and little Bobby needs new shoes for his growing feet.

So the next time you catch yourself using any of these terms, stop, and know that it's okay to call a disability what it is. My name is Mike. I have Cerebral Palsy and I approve this message!

Roll on!




  1. Michael, thanks for the comment love over at Bugigangas!

  2. thank ye, Miss Jenna!

  3. My personal hatred is 'persons of different abilities' - which is like number 2 in your list but means nothing at all. Of course, 'poor cripple' comes up too often and 'handicapped' is used by those in the medical community like transit drivers, older RN's, people who operate programs for 'handicapped'. Indeed, an able bodied woman kept correcting me from using disabled and trying to make me use 'handicapped', until she then revealed that she assumed I had Downs syndrome because I use a wheelchair. (????). Onward.

    Elizabeth McClung (at Screw Bronze blog - blogger is doing the hating thing now for comments)