Language can carry baggage with it and it is an issue that has come up in several conversations I have had recently that impacts the primary communication and marketing tools of businesses and not-for-profit organisations. Interestingly without any prompting from me, the word it revolves around seems most often to be disability. So I ask the question, is the term ‘disability’ becoming too ‘negative’? Is the market becoming ‘sensitive’ to the undertones and seeking a more ‘accurate’ and possibly ‘positive’ version of disability?
The age of political correctness dawned on us some time ago and as a consequence our language has changed. Terms used to group people together are the ones that are most sensitive and the rules of what you can and can’t say are ever evolving.
Terms that were once welcomed by the very groups they referred to have become too negative over time. Whether the new terms which replace them will also weather badly in time is yet to be determined.
The not-for-profit sector is an area most impacted, because they are often looking out for those less fortunate. The impact of terms that go negative over time can have major implications. For example the recent move by what was once the Spastic Centre to change their name to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. I know this was a deeply considered move over an extended period of time. To change the name of such a well established and highly respected organisation is not a straight forward process. There are so many interest groups involved not to mention the financial constraints.
I am sure we are all familiar with a certain tweet that referred to someone as a spastic getting the person who typed it into some very hot water.
So I get back to my original question – has the term ‘disability’ become too negative? Do we subcinsciously conger images that further disadvantage people who are ‘less fortunate’ / ‘challenged’ / by using the term disability?
For people who have a mental disability – should we refer to them as neurologically challenged? Is that term any better? Is making it sound more medical a better thing? What is the alternative?