Accessible Terminology

Normally I am of the opinion that there is too much time spent focusing on superfluous items such as appropriate terminology than on implementing actual accessibility, but there are a few glaring exceptions.

Invalid, for example, is one I dislike especially. Broken down, it quite literally is in-valid, meaning not valid, of no importance. And I’m sorry that my brain doesn’t always communicate effectively with the rest of my body, but that doesn’t invalidate me as a person. Confined can be bothersome, people are not ‘confined’ to, or by, wheelchairs (they are, confined by lack of ramps). Gimp reminds me of camp crafts and cripple of potato chips.

And truth be told, it is not the words themselves that bother me, but the attitudes behind the words. It is the attitude we must address, enlighten and overcome, not the words. And quite frankly, I really don’t care what you call me, I just want to be able to buy my own toothpaste. But I do care what you call others, and any word, when used to name-call, becomes negative. Again, not the word itself, but the motive behind the word.

But it is entirely different with the r-word. There is no need to use the r-word. Ever.

In a clinical sense, the word means slowed development. But as language continues it’s constant evolution, the r-word, like many others, has changed. The clinical definition was first adopted by society as a reference to people with intellectual or development delays. Like all labels, it is limiting, but also insulting and hurtful. There are many, many great articles and activists out there who express far more eloquently than I ever could, exactly how hurtful and hateful this word is, and I will link to a couple at the end of this post. The r-word should not be used, ever. There is no need, even from a clinical perspective or physics principle, there are other words we can use.

Today we see the word used as a slang substitute for stupid, ridiculous, idiotic.

For example, “I can’t believe the restaurant did that, it’s so r-word” or “you’re acting so r-word”.

To understand exactly how the connotation of this word has changed, and how inappropriate the use of it now is, try this; substitute a race or religion instead of the r-word in the example sentences above.

Get it now?

The meaning of the r-word has changed from meaning ‘slow development’ to meaning ‘ignorant’. As in, if you are still using the r-word, I think you sound ignorant.

Politically correct isn’t about trying to limit speech, it’s about trying to expand vocabulary to be inclusive.