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2 Comments

  1. 1

    Michael Uniacke

    Deaf people left this debate quite some time ago. There again, deafness has a complex relationship with disability, and the Deaf community defines itself mostly by its language, something no other disability group can do. Language trends come and go, and ultimately each person with a disability has to decide what best describes themselves. And that choice should be respected. On language, I once posted on deaf chat forums the suggestion that the Deaf community could reclaim the word “dumb”. The silence in response was, well, deafening.

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  2. 2

    Bob Williams-Findlay

    There can be no agreed language when words mean different things to groups of people. I have a label because of brain damage at birth. That label is ‘cerebral palsy’ and through both medical and social construction it is used to describe my body and its impaired functions. The UK Disabled People’s Movement makes a clear distinction between an individual’s body and the societal responses to that body. We don’t focus on impairment because everyone views their own body as they please – so ‘people first or identity first’ has little purchase beyond specific groups.

    Our focus is on what disables us; it is the lost of bodily function of social restrictions caused by societal attitudes and practice? We believe the nature of British society disables us and therefore disability is an experience not a characteristic. As someone who has had the label CP for 65 years, I have no thoughts on it beyond its perceived impact; this is clearly a different set of relations in comparison with someone who sees themselves as an ‘autistic person’.

    My biggest concern with this debate is the dominance of characterising ‘individuals’ rather than addressing the oppressive social relations people like us are subjected to.

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