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Okay, so what’s the beef with language? Why is it important to us to be named as ‘disabled people’, rather than ‘people with disabilities’. Dr Colin Cameron gives an overview of the Social Model of Disability, which has underpinned the Disability Arts and the Disability Rights Movement over the last 30 years. He explains why 'disability' has come to denote the barriers disabled people face, rather than the impairments we live with.

A middle-aged woman is standing with a young lad, staring at a group of men in wheelchairs. The boy is pointing at the wheelchair-users saying

'Oh look it's the disabled' © Crippen

Okay, so what’s the beef with language? Why is it important to us to be named as ‘disabled people’, rather than ‘people with disabilities’. Dr Colin Cameron gives an overview of the Social Model of Disability, which has underpinned the Disability Arts and the Disability Rights Movement over the last 30 years. He explains why 'disability' has come to denote the barrriers disabled people face, rather than the impairments we live with.

Comments

31 October 2017

Brian Combe

This is my personal opinion and others rightfully exist but has someone who has medical conditions which makes some activities difficult or not possible to do, I am a person first. My disabilities are properties of my person.

I am not disabled as a person, I still function as a person. My person is not malfunctioning. My body is not fully able to do some things, just as shorter person may not be able to reach a high shelf without climbing a ladder. In this respect I prefer the term "Person with a Disability". It's more accurate just as a truly 'disabled toilet' would be non-functioning.

25 July 2015

Crippen

@Richard Downs: "Shall we dance? On a bright cloud of music shall we fly? Shall we dance? Shall we then say "Goodnight and mean "Goodbye"?!

14 July 2015

Colin Hambrook

We’ve been having this argument about language for over 20 years and it looks like it is going to carry on I think, partly because society is making so many retrogressive steps in terms of disability rights. The argument that ‘people with disabilities’ puts the person first is flawed, however. It revolves around the idea that we are multi-faceted and that impairment is only one aspect of who we are and that as such we are people first. Disability isn’t something we ‘have’. We don’t carry it around with us. Disability as a definition explains our experience of oppression. It is as much about class as it is about impairment. I am often disabled by situations when I talk about my experience of mental health issues. When I talk about facing oppressive structures within the mental health system it is often seen that it is ‘my’ mental illness talking, rather than that I am questioning a hierarchy that has dedicated itself to maintaining power structures that are rooted in ideas of ‘professionalism’ that segregates and isolates individuals who don’t fit in.

8 July 2015

Sancha Donald

Interesting, humorous "partnership with my disability", and gives consistent clarity around disabled arts. However as you know in most places in Australia the person is put first. Therefore artists with disability and arts + disability are the words that Accessible Arts uses.

7 July 2015

richard downes

Nice summation by Colin and a nice extra comment from Steve Kean but what I want to know from Crippen is; are they conjoined wheelchair users, or Siamese wheelchair users modelling a Yul Brynner look? Such is the relationship in disability arts between the King and I.

6 July 2015

Steve Kean

A very interesting viewpoint. In recent months, I have felt that it is more appropriate for me to call myself a disabled artist rather than an artist with a disability, but I really couldn't articulate why and this article helps. I am not in "partnership with my disability" as "artist with a disability" might suggest. And putting the "person first" has always felt awkward, like my disability existed in addition to or on top of the person I am. That never felt right either. My physicalness is as much a part of who I am and how I deal with the world and create art as any other part of me. How I see the world from my predominantly seated perspective directly affects how I work as an artist and informs my thinking. It is absolutely integral to my artistic processes.

As a matter of fact, I am working on a series called, "The Way I See You" showing the rest of the world what they look like from my perspective.

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