Let me start off by saying I understand and respect the terminology that other people use and prefer. These are just my own thoughts on the terminology from a personal standpoint.
I have had cerebral palsy my entire life. In my case, this means that I use a wheelchair to navigate through the daily demands of life. Over the years, there has been growing discussions about the terms that are politically correct when referring to individuals with disabilities. I myself am not too picky on the subject, however, there is one term that I really cannot stand. When people use the term differently-abled, it makes me cringe. I understand the message that the term is trying to convey, and to a point, I think the message is great. Yes, disabled people do have a lot more ability than people think, and yes, we have to adapt and do things differently. On the other hand, though, I think there are a few issues with this term.
1. Saying “differently-abled” does not say anything about the fact that I have a condition. If you think about it, we all have different abilities. For example, some people are good at sports and some aren’t because they have DIFFERENT ABILITIES.
2. Using "differently-abled" just sounds like you’re trying to cover up the word disability because society views it as negative. It isn’t negative. I am disabled and that’s okay.
3. Using "differently-abled" implies that a person can do anything, just in a different way, which again, is true to a degree. BUT WE DO HAVE LIMITS. There are things we cannot do. Using differently-abled puts pressure on us to be able to do everything ourselves, no matter how much we can do for ourselves. We have a diagnosis and there are some things we need to ask for help with.
It is terms like differently-abled and inspiration that make me not want to ask for help because there is this pressure of comparison to others with disabilities and our society in general.
If you want to know what term is best to use, ask the individual.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” - Psalms 139:14
Image credit: Kayla Ruesseler