#SayTheWord – The Power of Language for Disability Identity

“Dig a little deeper and the lesson is clear: Make something accessible and inclusive and everybody benefits, not just disabled people. Every single time.” – Lawrence Carter-Long, #SayTheWord creator

Spoken language plays a vital role in how we perceive issues. We convey emotions, thought, perceptions, and prejudice through verbal communication. Therefore, it’s important that we choose our words with intent. Which is why it is imperative that we think about how we talk about disability. The #SayTheWord campaign does just that.

#SayTheWord was devised by Lawrence Carter-Long, the Public Affairs Manager of the National Council on Disability. Its purpose is to demand that people say the word “Disabled” rather than dodge it in conversation by using alternatives like “people with disabilities”, or offensive terms like “special needs,” “handicapable,” “physically or mentally challenged,” “differently abled,” etc.

Carter-Long first used #SayTheWord in a December 9th, 2015 tweet.

However, it gained further recognition on January 13th, 2016. Carter-Long again tweeted, using the hashtag, asking people to say “Disabled” after the disabled were not mentioned with other identity groups during the 2016 State of the Union. It was a moment that showed how the disability community is often neglected as a constituency.

In late February 2016, NPR’s Barbara J. King got together with Lawrence Carter-Long to discuss the meaning of #SayTheWord, the importance of language, and why disability rights are beneficial to everybody.

It’s an interesting article that sheds light on two important things. First, how language shapes the perception of disability in our society. And above all, how it’s a proven fact that accessibility benefits everybody, not just disabled people. You can read that discussion here. It’s more than worth your time.

What do you think?

Let us know what you think. How has language affected your experience with disability? We want to hear your stories.

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Josh Appel
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