The Deaf Bulletin 2014 Issue 5
Why words are important in describing persons with disability.
Have you ever thought of the terminology that Zimbabwe society use for people living with disabilities? Many people try to use language they think is disability-friendly, but it may actually be disrespectful to the disability community.Each society has its own natural cultural norms on people living with disability within the family or community. But have we ever questioned the ultimate result of those norms, that they degrade someone to a sub human status.
How can the government best address the needs of persons with disabilities? It all begins with the right communication thus using disability positive language. For instance in Zimbabwe, many people use wrong language describing people with disabilities such as (chirema, Mamhetamakumbo) physical disability. It does not mean that when one has physical disability he/she is not able to work. It is the society that makes one to become disabled by not providing the necessary facilities.
Some people call wheel chair users as wheelchair bound. People that use wheelchairs are not bound to them. Some wheel chair users can walk for short periods or stand to transfer to a car, bed or chair.
The Deaf are at times described as (chimumumu or deaf and dumb). The most disheartening word is dumb which means mute. Deaf people are not “mute.” Some deaf people have verbal skills and others communicate manually. These are some of the misconceptions society is using to describe persons with disability. The words at times are disrespectful and insulting. There is greater need of using language that respects disabled people as active individuals with control over their lives and ensure that disabled people have an equal role to that of everyone else in the society.
Other topics covered in this bulletin are:
- Exclusion and discriminating of children with disability.
- Empowering Deaf youths.
- Access to health and sign language in hospitals.