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August 29, 2006

No Poetry in Suffering...

While concocting my course policies, I discovered that the President's Commission on Disability Issues of the University of Maryland stoically warns us against expressing any kind of emotional response to human suffering:

Never use the terms "victim" or "sufferer" to refer to a person who has or has had a disease or disability. This term dehumanizes the person and emphasizes powerlessness.

(Oddly enough, the terms "victim" and "sufferer" actually would make a person more powerful and more human in a Christian context, wouldn't they?)

Also, realize that there is nothing at all pitiable or tragic about having some kind of horrible, rare, or painful disability, and that people who do not have disabilities are never, ever to be considered normal people:

Be careful not to imply either that people with disabilities are to be pitied, feared, or ignored, or that they are somehow more heroic, courageous, patient or "special" than others. Never use the term "normal" in contrast.

Here's another one I like:

Avoid terms that define the disability as a limitation; such as "confined to a wheelchair," or "wheelchair-bound." A wheelchair liberates; it doesn't confine.

Surprisingly, such people are merely "wheelchair users." I was half-expecting the term "wheelchair-liberated."

Of course, we wouldn't call them "the wheelchair liberated" since

Never use the article "the" with an adjective to describe people with disabilities.

So, for example, you would never want to use more concise language like "the deaf" when you could use a more awkward phrase like "people who are deaf" (as if we didn't know we were talking about people).
Someone should forward these guidelines to the people over at The American School for the Deaf those backwards-thinking traditionalist jerks have no idea what psychological trauma they are inflecting on people who are hearing impaired!

Now, if I had time for this kind of thing, I would scour the University Website and find examples of UMD violating its own policy, but I have syllabi to write!

Posted by Peter Terp on August 29, 2006 at 09:27 AM | Permalink


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