For a number of years, we’ve had this sign on display in our office (click photo above to enlarge). Originally, the sign was created to stop the use of “gay” as a negative slur. However, we recently found a note on it, which stated:
“Insane” and “crazy” are ableist and they’ve historically been used to gaslight victims of abuse.
They are not better than homophobic slurs. Please stop encouraging people to use these words.
Well, we did take the sign down, it had good intentions, but the individual was right. The sign was quite dated and as language evolves, we do too, in response. We’re still learning as an office, and we work hard to be as responsive and welcoming to our community as possible.
As such, I’d like to take a moment to recognize this minority that is sometimes marginalized. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “About 60 million people or one in five Americans is living with at least one disability and most Americans will experience a disability at sometime during the course of their lives.” One in a five is a huge number. In facts, it’s the largest minority group in America. Brownworth notes:
Millions of Americans are trying to get through every day without someone discovering they have something seriously wrong with them, without someone discovering they aren’t normal, without someone looking at them as if they are somehow damaged, less than, broken, sick.
If one in five Americans are disabled, then everyone knows someone with a disability–in every family, school, workplace, friend group, etc. One in five LGBT people has a disability, and we think it’s important to think about and to recognize the issues surrounding disability. I invite you to explore some of our materials about LBGT and disability, including moving memoirs by Terry Galloway and Connie Panzarino. Just click on the images to see their catalog entry.
Albeism is a form of discrimination against people with disabilities. It is the practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalues and limit the potential of persons with disability. Brownworth comments: “The Americans With Disabilities Act is an unreliable farce, and those of us who are disabled …must battle with employers and landlords, doctors and health insurance companies to get what we need. We have to be activists whether we want to be or not, and yet all the while we must do our best to hide who we really are from those on whom we depend for survival.” One in five. We all know someone with a disability, it’s time we start thinking about our words and work towards creating a fully inclusive society.
For further reading, please check out Victoria A. Brownsworth’s article “Coming Out As…Disabled.” Additionally, head over to Autistic Hoya for a glossary of ableist phrases and why they’re problematic, and to see just how much ableist language pervades our society, check out Thought Catalog’s “15 Crazy Examples of Insanely Ableist Language.”
The Disability Services for Students (DSS) is dedicated to providing a welcoming and supportive environment for student with disabilities at Indiana University Bloomington. You can find more information about their office here.