Spot the difference between these two statements:
- International Day of Disabled Persons.
- International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
In 1982 the UN General Assembly decided on the World Programme of Action for Disabled People. In 2007 the official title of the Day was changed from International Day of Disabled Persons to International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Still contentious but at least it reflects the move from medical to social models of disability; a change from the association of the word disability with the deficit ‘can’t do’ (caused by the individual impairment) to the positive ‘can do’ (enabled through social change).
Language is important. We speak and attribute without thinking; we’re all subjects of Foucauldian discourse whereby ‘truths’ derive from external structures of control, legitimised and maintained through behaviours, beliefs and attitudes. Reference to disabled persons is incorrect. We are all persons. The reasons I may not use a computer mouse could be cerebral palsy, stroke, arthritis, broken bones or because I simply can’t see the cursor. To label me a disabled person because of limited physical or cognitive capacity is wrong. This is not being pedantic – its being aware of difference. Identity is on the surface; it’s what’s underneath that counts.