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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Is it 'disabled people' or 'persons with a disability'? This is one of the questions that I have struggled with before I got involved in the disability field. However, I have to make an important announcement.

OK, no need for that drum roll! The truth is that I've found a part-time job as 'research assistant' - which involves amongst others, research and public relations.Besides that, I hope to keep doing disability equality training and tackling disability issues as I did before. So that's one thing sorted out!

Sadly, despite any title/position/quality I may have or will have, I do get talked down to or even talked about as if I was never present in a room. It is happening less often, I admit, but I have the habit of remaining yours truly a 'wheelchair case' ... aah, with 'special needs' I forget ...
Yes, I admit that I've been lost in deep thought in my older posts. And therefore, this humour (yes, it should be funny) means that I'm in a better frame of mind. I admit that I'm realising that, after all, I will miss fulfilling my role as uncle but then I must go on with my life... until next time of course.

I have started off this post with a question really. And I need to answer it now. I guess that on looking back at my recent experiences of finding a job, being an uncle for my nephews' short visit, for instance, I can state that I still call myself a 'disabled' person. Not because the phrase itself is important but because it describes how I see my position in society.

After all, if I was a person 'with a disability', would not I who had the problem? And, at that, is not there no distinction between my biological reality and the social barriers I face in this term? Is it the fact that I have an impairment that creates most of my problems when in society? And I don't buy, with all due respect, the 'person first' thought behind 'person with a disability' ... In fact, when you add the words 'with a disability', I feel, you are actually emphasising that you are somehow 'not fully a person'.

Obviously, I've come a long way in my thought since the days I was content with being a person 'with special needs'. However, I believe that the term 'person with a disability' rather than freeing of us from being discriminated against, tends to suggest that we are the people with the problem. In other words, society has no fault and is fine as it is.
I recognise that it's often the case that there are translation issues that make it difficult to capture the political element inherent in the statement 'disabled people'. In fact, in Malta, I sometimes have to use the phrase 'person with a disability' when explaining 'disability' in Maltese, since we say "persuni b'dizabilita" since the alternative would effectively sound like you're saying "the disabled" in English.

Having said that, I think it's important not to forget that my position as a physically impaired person does not negate, in any way, my position of a student, worker, family member, uncle, and in the future that of lover, husband or father. However, it is a reality that the way society views me and organises itself will impact on the level of access I have to services, rights and choices which are at the basis of my independence. There's no way round it. It's not an issue of having a disability, but it's an issue of being disabled by society.

So it's rather disappointing that the UN has changed the name of the day formerly known as the day of 'disabled persons' to naming it the day of 'persons with a disability'. For it misses the point behind disability rights!