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LETTER: rethinking thoughtless labels

Dear editor,

I am taking the CCSW (Classroom and Community Support Worker) program at
Selkirk College. I am at the end of the fall semester and it was a wild and
crazy time, so much coming at you so fast, but have truly enjoyed and learned
so much.

I’ve always wondered if I was being politically correct in my naming words
that went with those that I will be supporting. Now after three months I have a
new awareness of words. Contrary to the old saying that “Sticks and stones
can hurt you but words cannot” is so wrong. Now when I hear someone say
“handicapped”,” special needs” or “disabled people” I cringe and
want to set them straight on what they are actually saying.

If you say someone has “special needs” then that indicates that their
different. This actually leads to segregation for the person; they are not
entitled to so called “regular” activities. Saying your child is special
is putting a terrible burden on them. None of us are special. We are all

The term 'disabled person' takes away from who they are as a person. They are
not broken and they are not their medical condition. How would we like it if
we were referred to by our medical conditions? The boil on your husband’s
butt, or your skin condition, is that who you are? We have individual names
for a reason. So why do we do this to others?

People first language teaches us to not label individuals but to treat them
as people first - not labeling them as a person with disabilities. A
disability is only a body part that works differently. If you say someone is
disabled the problem word would be “IS”. Because again we are not our
medical condition, you label jars not people. So then what do you say? You
would say “So and so has a cognitive disorder or has a learning disability
or has autism, or a mental health condition.”

We need to remember that we may be so called “able bodied people” now
but in the flash of a second we can quickly become someone with disabilities
as a result of an accident, illness or the stages of growing older.

Jolynn Batkey