labels r not us

I hate labels and the label I hate the most is ‘disabled people’.  I hate it because people with impairments are disabled by society’s failure to recognise categories of difference and reduce subsequent barriers to participation.  This is the social model of disability. It’s society that disables individuals; you don’t disable yourself.

Today the BBC and the Guardian have reported on a poll commissioned by Scope from ComRes, where 91% of people stated they believed disabled people should have the same opportunities as everyone else (it doesn’t say what the other 9% thought). It then goes on to tell us how ‘disabled people are largely hidden’ away and socially excluded.  Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of Scope, said: “This is shocking evidence that shows that disabled people are still relatively invisible in day-to-day life. We are deeply concerned that the Government’s spending cuts will end up pushing disabled people even closer to the fringes of society.”

Note the label’ disabled people’ throughout. When problem with labels is they’re seen first and accompanied with all the stereotypical images and cultural attributions associated with them.  If these are predominantly negative then the reader or listener experiences them first.  Labels reinforce and reiterate. When you see the label disabled people, add socially in front of every occurrence of disabled and see how the radically the meaning changes.