Ableism is a type of discrimination that is against people with disabilities. Ableist language, then, are words or phrases that target people with disabilities, either on purpose or inadvertently. The reason these words are problematic is that they either have histories of oppressing disabled people or are currently used to oppress disabled people. Even if some of the meanings of the words have changed, the history--and the pain--is still there.
For example, take the word spaz, short for spastic. Today it means something along the lines of “hyperactive.” But the word used to refer to people with cerebral palsy/other neurological diseases.
Another example is the word dumb, which we use today to refer to unintelligent people or choices people make. The word used to refer to people who were Deaf, couldn’t speak, or who had linguistic disabilities.
One newer word that targets people with disabilities on purpose is derp, herp-derp, derpy, etc. It shamelessly makes fun of people with intellectual disabilities.
Other ableist terms include, but are not limited to: crazy, cretin, cripple, handicap, harelip, idiot, imbecile, insane, invalid, lame, loony, lunatic, madhouse, maniac, mental, moron, nuts, psycho, retard, simpleton, stupid, and wacko.
The need to stop using ableist language isn’t some quest to be the most politically correct person in the room. It’s about considering the feelings and thoughts of those who are affected by this language. I hope you will spend some time reflecting on the everyday language you use in your life and if you use ableist words, that you will cut them out of your vocabulary. It’s something I’ve been working hard on, and I hope that you will, too. Let’s be considerate to others and cut ableist words out of our vocabularies for good.
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