I had a bit of a flashback today. Intro to sociology 2009 junior college. The professor decided to open class with a series of questions. Do women deserve equal pay for equal work? Are women entitled to vote as much as men? Should women be allowed to own property or have their own bank account? The general consensus of the class thank goodness was yes. Then he asked how many of us considered ourselves feminists. Very few hands were raised, which was rather surprising considering how many answered affirmatively to the prior questions. This is what proved his point, that feminism had become a dirty word in society. My point in this moment of reminiscence is that certain words have an undeserving reputation in society. Disabled is absolutely one such word.  While I do believe interpretation and attitude matter its baffles me how hung up people get about the word. You do not have to adopt the popular connotation of any given word and apply it to your life. You also don’t have to read the dictionary to fun, a little bit of reason is all you need at your disposal. Now by all means if you feel referring to yourself as disabled impairs or negatively impacts your ability to cope find another more suitable word. But I do encourage you to challenge your preconceived notions about what the word disabled means in your life.

A word does not change your level of function, a word does not make you sicker, a word does not dictate what you dream for yourself, and a word does not dictate how others are allowed to treat you. Personally I do identify with the word disabled. If I were fully abled I would not need the daily intervention of mobility aids and medication. If I were fully abled I would not need diagnostic and preventative tests and screenings. If I were fully abled my daily actives and life decisions would not be based upon my level of function and the consequences of pushing the limits of my body.  Those are truthful facts about my life but they are not all I am.

Being disabled makes me no less of a woman, a daughter, a niece, an aunt, or a fur-mother. Being disabled does not mean that there are not hobbies I enjoy. Being disabled does not mean I lack compassion, empathy, or any range of emotions. Being disabled is merely an accurate descriptor of how my health impacts the way I  live my life. It gives me an alternate perspective on situations. It is not a weakness to be exploited nor is it a way to exploit others.

So why is disability such a “dirty word” in our culture? What negative connotations does the word provoke in you? Are they founded or unfounded? Words have power but they don’t have to dictate your path. With or without the word my function remains the same. Disabled is not my sole moniker it doesn’t inform all of who I am. But it is a part of what makes up my life. What about you?