Saturday, August 14, 2010


There are so many terms used to describe people with disabilities. Recently, some important person (I'm bad with names, so I forget who) said something to the effect of we will never truly be able to advance in the education of people with disabilities until we stop using the word special.

Special - not a word I like. It mostly stems from the government - special needs programs. There's the Special Olympics. Most of the times, special is used to describe people with developmental disabilities. That's fine - how do they feel about the term special? Perhaps it's ok with them.

Therapeutic recreation - just discovered this term! Then I discovered it's a common term. Problem - to me, therapy is not fun, so pairing it with recreation doesn't go well. Our Parks and Rec dept has a new therapeutic rec component. So I asked further. Oh - it's mainly for people with developmental disabilities. That's fantastic. So can you also start a handcycling club? But then, that's more like adaptive sports. And people with developmental disabilities want adaptive sports too.

Where things go - therapeutic rec info is on the page opposite the senior programs! It's not by the sports programs. That's interesting. Should there be a separate category - adaptive sports? No - because if I want to start my handcycling club, it's going to therapeutic rec. And I have to start it. That's too much right now since I'm barely cycling. I'll stick with the cycling groups I know.

Handicapped - toss it out - how long will this take?

ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act - that's how we get to people with disabilities and I am starting to see children with disabilities instead of special needs kids. If you think about it, it must be an interesting transition to go from special needs kid to person with a disability. Is there a ceremony?

Then in the same bulletin as therapeutic rec, I saw "ADA/special populatiosn." The following paragraph talked about people with disabilities. It's like the bulletin was trying in include every possible tterm. At least they didn't use the word handicapped.

Of course, people like to be called different things. There's also challenged, differently-abled, disAbility (capital A), and on and on. And then there's what symbol should be used for disability - a whole other subject!

But finally, and most importantly, there's a new generation. Andy Imparato (nationally recognized advocate who helped draft health care reform legislation, and I think I finally have his name right!) talked about this generation. My generation got in the door for employment - some are happy to be in the door; some of us want to advance and are going further with education. The new generation takes it a step further. Andy says the new generation has high EXPECTATIONS - they ASSUME being able to get in the door - they ASSUME moving past that. And to do that - some of the terminology should change, so people are people, and we have more positive labels for disability.

Times are changing. It's "challenging" to try to get some changes through - to get people to see that as a person who uses a wheelchair, I may still have high goals. But we're getting there. The new generation will take it even further - they're starting at a different place than where I started, which was fear of assumptions on disability. It seems to me they're starting with confidence. And with that, the voice of people with disabilities only gets stronger.

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