Change Your Words, Change Your Worldview

Cleaning some research files, I stumble across this evocative statement:

The Social model of disability …the general term disability is applied not because of an inability to function but rather because of an innate inability to operate by modern society’s standards… For example in a pre-literate society, someone with Dyslexia would have no problem functioning and would not be considered disabled. In a pre-urban society, an individual with autism, toiling long hours over the same task in a field, may stand out less nor be in need of ‘care’. 

I understand this to mean that a difference is not necessarily a disability. What makes a disability a disability is not doing things the same way as everybody else; an “inability to operate by modern society’s standards.”

That quote reminds us of two things:

1. How important language is. According to the quote above, a disability doesn’t exist until we label and define it. Thus is the power of language.
2. Why creativity is crushed in school. If we call operating outside of society’s norms ‘disabled’ you can see that coloring outside the lines is not going to be encouraged. This demonstrates the power of language to shape our thinking (which shapes our education, which shapes our thinking).

Where does your language create disability? Where does your thinking disable or enable others?

Reference
Dalton, N. S. (2013). Neurodiversity HCI. interactions, 20(2) pp. 72–75.

Lucinda

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Lucinda Atwood is a master teacher and coach who makes learning public speaking fun and easy. (Yes, it's possible.) She's a Communication Consultant based in beautiful Vancouver Canada.
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