I would like to address the reason why I changed the wording in yesterday’s entry. I originally had written ‘disabled people’ where it now reads ‘people with disabilities’. Initially, I thought the difference didn’t matter, and the commentators were just being anal, but the more I considered it the greater the difference seemed. You’ve probably heard this before, but it is an argument well worth rehearsing. The phrase ‘disabled people’ renders ‘us’ as other; rhetorically, it’s like saying that there is a subgroup of people who are set apart from the whole. The phrase ‘people with disabilities’, on the other hand, emphasises that we are first and foremost people who just happen to have a few physical quirks. ‘Disabled people’ sets up more of a normal / abnormal divide.
This is simple enough, and I apologise for my lapse yesterday. But here’s where it gets interesting. It goes back to my ‘us and them’ debate. If it really was a case of there being a disabled us and an able-bodied them, then the phrase ‘disabled people’ might be acceptable, as wouldn’t we want to emphasise our separateness in terms of the disabled community? Wouldn’t those who seem to claim that disability is a culture want to maintain a rhetorical division, for if we were all just people with disabilities we would all just be part of a whole. Personally, I no longer see myself as separate: I’m just a regular guy really. I can do anything anyone else can, including going on trains. Although I may use a lightwriter and a chair, I am not really ‘different’ or ‘separate’. Granted, people with disabilities must sometimes work together to achieve their goals, but is that really any different from any other pressure group? Although disability art certainly exists, I’m not sure that it indicates a wider disability culture, for surely it should be seen within the context of western culture.
Perhaps I still need to think about all this, but I must say that I’m rethinking beliefs that I was once sure of. After all, if we got rid of these barriers, rhetorical and otherwise, and saw everyone as simply people, wouldn’t the world be a nicer place?