CW: allusion to and mention of disability slurs:
I did a talk today at Centre for Australian Progress. I talked about accessible communication – which covered how to talk about disability (person first and identity first language), accessible written communication, accessible virtual and physical events, and disability slurs.
Disability slurs are words that are associated with disability that are mainly used as insults, or to mock disabled people. Many originated with the way Disability was medicalised and segregated throughout history, and even related to eugenics. Disability slurs include the R word and the M word (no, I won’t write them here – you can research them yourself), and words related to physical impairments, short stature, cognitive disability and mental illness.
Many words are ingrained into our vocabulary as casual ableism – especially “idiot” and “lame”, and mental illness slurs like “crazy” and “OCD”. There are also turns of phrase like “tone deaf”, “crippling”, and “blind to” that are harmful.
Even if Disability slurs are not directed at disabled people, they are still harmful. And no-one ever uses a disability slur as a compliment – so don’t tell me you didn’t mean to offend disabled people when saying the R word or derivatives of.
I ask you to stop using disability slurs please. Don’t justify them. Call them out when family and friends use them. Use alternative words like “bananas”, or “cockwomble” or “utterly ridiculous”.
I’ve lost friends because they think the right to say the R word is bigger than the right for disabled people to feel safe and respected.
I’ve written lots on this topic, and so have others – so as I said at Progress, please educate yourself. Here’s a starting point from People with Disability Australia:.
Lastly, please don’t use disability or being disabled as an insult. I really love this tweet from Imani Barbarin.
Please don’t continue to use disability slurs when there are so many more words in the dictionary.
Has my work helped you or made you think? Will you use this in your work? Please consider buying me a drink.