05 November, 2013

Handicapped People? Really?!

Are you familiar with Yanko Design? I wasn't either, but when I was searching for items that might empower me a bit more in the kitchen, I came across their listing of the following item.

Single Hand Cook
"It’s easy for us folks to work in the kitchen, simply coz we have two hands. Fracture, permanent disability, paralysis to one side…such situations don’t discriminate and make doing regular stuff like cutting apples, peeling oranges, slicing veggies, buttering a toast a challenge. The One-Hand Kitchen Equipment is designed for people who use can use only one hand ...

This is specialized kitchen equipment includes one-handed food cutting equipment, one- handed different diameter tubes opener, one-handed fruits and vegetables cutting and peeling equipment, one–hand changeable graters, food box, equipment for peeling eggshells, elements for stabilizing foods like bread (while buttering etc.). The design includes pins for gripping the fruits and non-slip rubbers to add stability."

Well, that got me all excited until it became apparent this product never made it into production. I was looking at a prototype. Still, I thought it was très cool and shared it on facebook, but that's when the trouble began.

When you do that, you get the usual shared link window that most of us have used repeatedly with a nice thumbnail of the item and bit of the above text, but then it adds the following teaser title:

One-Hand Kitchen Equipment for Handicapped
People by Gabriele Meldaikyte » Yanko Design

WHAT?!!! "Handicapped people"?!

I don't care if you are as careful as I to use person-first descriptors like "Thom is an individual with a left hand disability" or "with physical challenges," but please don't ever say "handicapped people" or its successor "disabled people." We are neither handicapped or disabled. I am a person first and secondly someone who happens to have an array of abilities that are different than the array of abilities most people have. If you want to suggest I am differently abled, I could live with that.

I have posted before about what I call undifference - what those individuals who are without differences have, those who are difference challenged. Now I'm wondering if we need a new word, perhaps a contraction of differently abled - perhaps difability.

The problem is I know any word will eventually get perverted into some new way to label folks like me, some new way to deliver negative attention.

I have said and written the following in a number of venues:

About two and a half millennia ago, Thucydides, the great politician of Ancient Greece, was asked when justice would finally come to Athens. His response was wise. He said, “Justice will not come to Athens until those who are not injured are as indignant as those who are injured.”

I say to you today that our job cannot and simply will not be done until those who are without disability are just as offended and angry about the barriers to independent living as are those who are with disability.

Language, with the expectations it engenders, can be one of the greatest barriers.