Do Not Say Handicap

I first learned about the term "handicap" was at school in 6 grade. It was for our weekly spelling test. Soon after, the bell rang for recess. I went to my favorite spot, the swings. I was happy swinging away when a girl from the class started pointing at me, calling me handicapped. I remember mixed emotions and understanding that others see me as a handicap, something I never knew before.  I knew I was different and had a hard time pronouncing words, but that was it. I just got out of the swing and walked away crying. Weeks later, I saw her on TV talking about her disability.

It is no longer okay to call someone handicapped. The term handicapped is considered outdated, disrespectful, and offensive. It implies inherent inability, not being able to function, separation from society. In addition, the word handicapped wasn't chosen by the people it was supposed to describe. People with disabilities preferred "disability" and "disabled."

I am glad that we no longer use handicap anymore, but I think there are still disability vocabulary words that needs to change. For example, in a school setting, I believe that "special education" or "special accommodations" needs to be transformed into "accessibility services" or "disability services" or "disability accommodations." Likewise, I don't like "handicapped parking"; I prefer "accessible parking" instead.

To this day, I still recall that incident every time I see swings. I understand I have a disability, and I am okay with it. I think my disabilities have made me the person I am today. If I weren't born the way I am, I wouldn't be as caring as I am, I wouldn't be in the field of helping others, I won't be me. So even though I have cried many times for being "different," I would not change it.

One thing I can encourage you is to research disability etiquette. Please know that people with different disabilities have the right to choose what they wish to be called, as a group or individually. It is their decision. It's nobody's decision but theirs. If you hear someone say handicap, I encourage you to educate them. Sometimes, it is not out of disrespect but more out of lack of education. It does gets overwhelming to educate everyone and its not your responsibility. Unfortunately, that is how the change will come about.

When was the first time you first heard the word handicap? When was it when you discovered that you had a disability? What other disability vocabulary words need to be changed?

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