This month Audacitymagazine.com celebrates its 17th year as the online lifestyle magazine for physically disabled people. AudacityMagazine.com has one birthday request from society. Stop giving us another label, especially the ones that demean us. Labels are becoming fashionable in our current society. I don’t mean Fendi or Chanel. Did you know that I can’t simply be Nathasha Alvarez? No! Society wants to throw labels at me and all I can do is duck them from side to side because labels constrain me more than my physical disability.
It’s not just the non disabled population. Even disabled people are embracing these labels. Perhaps it makes them feel “special”? Yikes! I detest that word. So let’s talk about that label first.
The Special Label
Let’s get rid of the label “special” to refer to anything that disabled people need just like non disabled people. There’s no such thing as “Special Education” if the disabled child is learning the same subjects as the other students. If they’re not, then it’s called a modified curriculum.
Teachers who teach disabled students need to get off their high and mighty horsey and stop acting as if they are super heroes because they teach disabled students. They refer to themselves as “Special” education teachers. Make up your minds. Is the the teacher special or is it the student? I’ve written about this before here. For the record, I am a physically disabled teacher who teaches middle school and I have had students with disabilities, yet I still don’t say I am a “Special Education” teacher or a “Sped” teacher. Both labels that drive me up the wall!
So who is special? Well, a parent might say that their child is special and the child doesn’t have to have a disability. I know that a husband might say to his wife that she is special. Neither of these examples mean a person with a disability. So let’s keep the word special as a way to describe someone who is meaningful to our heart.
By the way, this brings me to my next dreadful label.
Recently, people have decided to make a big deal about a disabled person dating a non disabled person. This label is “Interabled.” Seriously? What in the freaking world is that?
I am 51 years old and I have yet to have a label attached to my dating life. I would be profoundly embarrassed.
This would be my dating life if the word existed while growing up:
Boyfriend: Nathasha, I am thrilled to be in this interabled relationship with you. Would you be my girlfriend?
Me: Oh, yes! I can’t believe you want to be in an interabled relationship with me. My last interabled relationship was so much fun.
Oh good grief! That would have made me gag! Never in my life, I’ve had boyfriends since third grade, have I ever had to have a label other than boyfriend/girlfriend. Who came up with this term? I hope they are fully embarrassed by it.
Leave my dating life alone! Love is love, right? So why place this ridiculous label? Does it make people feel…shall I say it? SPECIAL? Move on!
Actually these are sub-labels for the word special. We have “special needs (fill in the blank with the word parent or child)”. Really? Why do parents have to say that they are a special needs parent? Does it give them glory or a sense of purpose? My mother never said, “Excuse me, I am a Special Needs mother, may I have the Grey Poupon?” She didn’t say, “Excuse me, my daughter is a special needs child and she wants to read and write.” No! She probably said, “Pass me the Grey Poupon” or “Give my child more work, she finished reading all the books in the house.”
Of course, we have “Special” accommodations which is supposed to be said as “reasonable” accommodations because of the Americans with Disability Act. What’s so special about having to go to the bathroom or having access to the same public places as everyone else? I really don’t get it. There’s nothing special about it. Why does society feel that if they label it “special” it makes them the martyr for following the law? Get over yourselves!
Here’s something else for you to think about before you use any of the mentioned labels. They actually segregate us even more. A potential boss might wonder what kind of “special” accommodations will be needed before they hire you. If the place of employment is following the ADA then they will feel less apprehensive hiring you knowing that they must have “reasonable” accommodations for you. Special is like saying that you only like green M&Ms and if you don’t get them, you will throw a tantrum. Now that’s special!
Who wants to have to explain on a first date what interabled means? Not me. Sorry. I can’t get over this useless word. I imagine my boyfriend telling his parents that he is in an interabled relationship. Or chilling with his friends and using this label. Totally uncool. People! It’s a relationship. Get over it. You’re not helping yourselves with this label.
Acceptance Not Awareness
This month also marks the signing of the Americans with Disability Act. Let’s take it one step further and decide to eliminate any term or word or phrase that continues to segregate us. If we, physically disabled people, want to be taken seriously stop yourself and others from using labels that don’t help bring acceptance.
Acceptance not awareness! Awareness is overrated. If you see me and you aren’t aware that I am physically disabled, I can’t help you with that. But if you want to make sure that me and others with disabilities are accepted in society, in the work place, in public areas, or even outer space (Come on, now Branson and Bezos! Call me!) then quit using labels that hinder the goal.
If you want to know more about my disability then accept me as your friend and we can discuss it. I don’t ask you to tell me about your medical issues so why do I have to tell you mine? These labels don’t help unite us. We can do better. Reject these labels.
Be audacious! Wear that label proudly! I do!
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