COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Rocky Mountain ADA Center has launched a campaign to get people to stop saying the H word. What H word? “Handicapped.”
“Saying handicapped puts an arbitrary limitation on people that they don’t have one,” said Rachael Stafford, Project Director of the Rocky Mountain ADA Center.
The word “handicapped” is everywhere: on signs, in articles and in everyday conversations, but Stafford said it’s time for a change.
“I don’t say I’m lawyer Rachael. I don’t say I’m confined to being a mother, no more than somebody would say I’m confined to a wheelchair, or I’m blind or deaf. You’re gonna say ‘I’m a person, I happen to have this,’” said Stafford.
“It doesn’t apply to me. Because I am able. I am able to do anything, except hear,” said Beverly Buchanan, a teacher at UCCS who happens to be deaf.
Stafford said the goal of the campaign isn’t to shame anyone for using the H word, but to educate and empower them to choose a different and more appropriate word or phrase.
“Handicapped. That’s a very old word, old fashioned. That’s from a long time ago. We’re humans. You’ve got to look at the person,” said Buchanan.
“It focuses on what is a perceived condition. It takes the focus off of the person and it lumps them into a category,” said Rita Schell, an Iraq War Veteran. “I’m not a disabled person. I am a person who just happens to have some disabilities.”
Disabilities come in a variety of forms and can sometimes even be invisible.
“I served two one-year tours in Iraq and as a result of that I have PTSD as well as a TBI,” said Schell.
But invisible or visible disability, the No H Word Campaign is trying to put out the message that what should be seen first is the person.
“And that’s what they want to be recognized as, a person,” said Schell.
“We’re all just human. We’re all the same,” said Buchanan.
The disabled community is the largest minority group in the world and a group anyone can join in an instant. To learn more about the Rocky Mountain ADA Center and their campaign, visit http://www.rockymountainada.org/dont-say-h-word/ .
Rocky Mountain ADA Center Partners with Disability Advocates to End Use of ‘H’ Word
Empowerment Campaign to Educate Americans on Negative Impact of Term: Handicapped
Colorado Springs, Colo. – November 5, 2015 – The Rocky Mountain ADA Center, along with many advocates across the United States, is proud to launch the first-ever campaign to end use of the ‘H’ word. To learn more about the campaign, visit www.rockymountainada.org
2015 marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which protects the rights of close to 60 million Americans with disabilities, the nation’s largest minority group. This anniversary helped the ADA gain momentum by providing a window to promote the law’s advancements, and the support it has provided for the millions of our neighbors with disabilities. With this milestone in place, the Rocky Mountain ADA Center and its partners believe it is time to begin a new discussion with the nation about alternatives to a word that is long overdue for replacement. That word is HANDICAPPED.
“I should not be defined by my disability,” said Belo Cipriani, columnist for the Bay Area Reporter and 2015 Best Disability Advocate in the San Francisco Bay Area as named by SF Weekly. ”And I certainly shouldn’t be called handicapped as that word is offensive, much like the N-word. Instead just call me Belo. It is my hope this campaign will empower people to think differently about the words they use. If we can turn someone’s attention to saying accessible parking from handicapped parking, we will have won that small battle. I know we have it in us as Americans, so let’s go!”
To be fair, the ‘H’ word began with good intentions, or at least intentions that were not mean-spirited. Changes in language are mostly subtle, but even in the absence of dark motives there can be unintended consequences and words can hurt. As time has gone on, the ‘H’ word, and the phrases that accompany it, became code for second-class citizenship. No one planned it; It was not someone’s agenda. However, now there is a real opportunity to redefine a culture and change the way we as people go forward, TOGETHER. Perhaps the ‘H’ word began as simple semantics but now it carries very real ramifications. Someone with the ‘H’ word tends to be ‘one of them,’ not ‘one of us.’
“Today marks phase one of three in the no ‘H’ word initiative. Over the next year, we will launch additional content, new avenues for everyone to share their stories, and a social media campaign. Hopefully, in a year or more we will gain attention and recruit thought leaders and influencers to join the campaign.” said Rachael Stafford, Project Director for The Rocky Mountain ADA Center. “The campaign’s initial goal is to respond to the use of the ‘H’ word, with respect and empowerment, in social media posts and news articles. We’ll also be offering a large team of advocates to interview on the topic.”
Citizens of average intelligence are never referred to as handicapped merely because they do not make the same grades as rocket scientists. The next time you hear someone use the ‘H’ word, remember It is OK but not desirable. People using the ‘H’ word are not trying to be disrespectful. Instead, most people are drawing upon a cultural norm, a by-product of a generation less aware. People who live with disabilities do not define themselves by their disabilities; other people define them that way. Those with disabilities are not victims of their impairments to sight or mobility any more than people without a disability are victims to their physical or mental limitations. The ‘H’ word didn’t always carry a stigma. It began innocently enough, and a slew of casual phrases leaked into our lexicon.
“I am joining this cause because I want everyone in the country to be seen for their abilities, not a perceived lack of abilities,” said Arthur Renowitzky, founder of Life Goes on Foundation. “It is my hope that over the next year we can start changing language and recruit an army of people that will endorse this campaign, from citizens to celebrities.”
Once we understand that there are so many people with disabilities, and that anyone could become an individual with a disability in a second – via car crash for example – it may be easier to grasp the notion that a group of almost 60 million citizens are not ‘them’. They’re ‘us’. Who knows… when the nation celebrates the ADA’s next milestone, perhaps one particular word will not be part of the discussion…
The Rocky Mountain ADA Center is a member of the National Network of ADA Centers funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), a division of the U.S. Department of Education. Its mission is to provide information on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to individuals and organizations in Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota. For more information: www.rockymountainada.org