"I am convinced that we are making the most profound
social change that our society has ever known."
THE PROBLEM AND IMPORTANCE OF LANGUAGE
Many argue that attitudes and stereotypes are the real disabilities. To help get beyond the old stereotypes of disability as simply a moral or medical issue, it is important to consider the words we use to describe disability.
Jargon used by service providers and other professionals is deficiency-oriented: it places the disability, usually a negative view of disability, before the person. The following excerpt from an article in People magazine (December 1988) about Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking illustrates this point:
"Wrecked by Lou Gehrigs's Disease, the body of the greatest cosmic thinker since Einstein huddles helplessly in a wheelchair ... What's left of Stephen Hawking, the physical man, is a benign head ripped by a drooling grin and a body collapsed into a pile of wasted limbs, ravaged by ALS ..."
Such language is insensitive and judgmental, and implies deep-seated attitudes toward individuals with disabilities.