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How we talk about disability can influence our thinking

How we talk about disability can influence our thinking

| Jun 26, 2014 | Social Security Disability |

In one of our posts last week, we wrote about Helen Keller’s advocacy for those living with disabilities. If Ms. Keller were alive today, she would likely be proud of how far America has come in its recognition of disability rights and the public accommodations now offered to allow more access and freedom for everyone regardless of physical ability.

Another important change has really started to take hold over the past few decades, and it has to do with how we conceptualize and communicate about disabilities. It is called using “person-first terminology.” Instead of saying “John is disabled,” it would be more appropriate to say “John has a disability.” The second phrase reinforces the fact that John is a person first and suggests that his disability is only one aspect of his life.

Some may view this as just another form of political correctness for its own sake. But it is important to remember that words shape how we think. When we say things like “John is disabled,” we essentially characterize John by his limitations. His disability comes to define who he is.

Of course, there are times when it is appropriate to detail an individual’s limitations for practical reasons. One of those times is when applying for Social Security Disability Insurance. If you suffer from a disabling condition, illness or injury, the defining characteristic is that this disability prevents you from working a job. The disability does not define you as a person, but it does greatly impact an important part of your life.

Going through the SSDI application and appeals process can sometimes feel dehumanizing. Some feel like they are being asked to prove how disabled they are. An experienced and compassionate Social Security Disability attorney can help you build a strong case while treating you with the respect and dignity you deserve.

Source: The Daily Journal, “OP-ED: Rethinking the term disability,” Vincent Merola, June 24, 2014