Blog #2: Accessible Terminology, a Post-Script on PwD

A quick post-script to our previous blog on Accessible Terminology, there is one more term of reference I take issue with.

The A.O.D.A. advocates using the reference term ‘person with a disability’ and while I completely appreciate the sentiment behind it, putting the ‘person’ before the ‘disability’, I have two issues with it.

The first is that my disability comes before everything else. It comes before my being able to attend my son’s graduation, my ability to access buildings and businesses to do my job or perform daily functions of life. It came before my ability to join my local chamber of commerce. I am not whining or complaining, just stating a fact. My disability even dictates my fashion choices. For example, I now have to wear flats with good grip and not my pretty boots. Cross-body strap bags and purses free my hands to hold whatever assistive device I might need them for, ie) cane, walker, scooter, wheelchair. These are just simple facts of life and I truly am not complaining for I have a wonderful life, but my disability affects every single aspect of it. So for me, putting the person before the disability is a token gesture, while I truly appreciate the acknowledgement that I am indeed a person and not a disability, it is not going to relegate my disability to the background.

My second issue is that ‘person with a disability’ is cumbersome in both conversation and writing and has been shortened to ‘PwD’ in most references. Like any industry, we already have our fair share of abbreviations; A.O.D.A., a11y, O.H.I.P., O.D.S.P., P.S.W., but aside from PwD adding yet one more, it also tends to relegate us into one. We are now PwDs. Most persons with disabilities, have already, in a sense, become relegated to being abbreviations; A.D.D., C.P., M.S., C.O.P.D., A.L.S., M.D., C.F., F.M.S., we don’t need to be further reduced. However, a friend has recently convinced me to embrace the abbreviation, “After all” she says, “we earned those letters after our name.”

Some scholars earn a C.A., PEng or PhD designation, we at Roll a Mile will be changing our business cards to read: ‘Name, M.S., PwD’ or ‘Name, C.P., PwD’ and will be wearing our PwD designations with honour.

And if we are to be referred to as ‘person with a disability’ then it serves that people lacking a disability be referred to as ‘person without a disability’, or abbreviated, P-wod.