A few weeks ago, I sat in on a meeting with two other people I respect. We were talking about access to services, I believe, and one of them made a comment that included the term 'disabled'. He was instantly corrected- 'ah, you mean specially-abled'.
To this, he replied that no, he meant 'disabled'. He continued to explain that it is necessary to recognize and acknowledge the fact that there are some of us who find this world a little difficult to navigate and need some help to do so. It is only then that we can seriously apply our minds to making sure this help is available at the time and in the manner that it is desired. He said a lot more on the topic, and listening to him, I realized all over again why I respect him so.
Since then though, I have been thinking. And I can see the point of both arguments. Terms used to address someone who is a little different can easily be a form of abuse. Old government records and texts abound with references to cripples, idiots, negroes and shudras. Each of these terms if uttered in public today would earn the utterer a black eye- and rightly so. But other than that, have things changed?
Does the number of 'g's with which one spells 'African' matter as long as one does not discriminate when working/socializing/loving? How about the other way round? What I see these days is that people think that the only thing that matters is to use the politically correct term. Use the cumbersome 'he or she' as a pronoun, but only employ a woman as a receptionist. Say 'specially-abled' but retain thresholds in all your doorways.
This has led to people doing two things with equal passion: hunting out increasingly obtuse terms, and insisting that there is nothing demeaning about a spade being called a spade.
Me, I am not sure. I dont know what comes first- respect or a respectful term. What do you think?
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