03 December 2009

December 3rd = International Day of Disabled People

At the conclusion of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992), the General Assembly, on 14 October 1992, proclaimed 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons (resolution 47/3). The Decade had been a period of raising awareness and enacting measures to improve the situation of persons with disabilities and to provide them with equal opportunities. Subsequently, the Assembly appealed to Member States to highlight the observance of the International Day in order to further integrate people with disabilities into society (resolution 47/88).

(From United Nations Conferences and Observances)

Yeah, OK, so then the UN renamed it the medical modelised International Day of Persons with Disabilities a year or two ago. So I'm starting off by posting the link to my fave guide to disability language.

Yes, I'm aware that American English speakers generally prefer "person first" language, but that doesn't make the term "persons with disabilities" any less medicalised/individualised in origin.

Person with disability = the person has something wrong with them, it's their body that prevents them from being equals.

Disabled person = person is disabled by barriers (social, architectural, environmental, etc) preventing them from living an equal life.

You know how when you switch off the wireless connection on your computer it says "wireless network connection has been disabled"? That means that someone has switched off the connection, it has been prevented from functioning. "Disabled people" has the same implication; we have been prevented from functioning. When you switch your wireless network back on it says "wireless network connection has been enabled," it has been allowed to function again.

"Disabled" has nothing to do with "less able" like most American English speakers seem to think (and apparently the UN too). When your wireless network has been switched off, has it become broken or less capable? No. It's just switched off. Enable it and it'll work fine again.

I'm a person with an impairment. I am disabled by steps, stairs, escalators, lack of computer access, inaccessible housing, and so on. To me a flight of stairs without a lift as an alternative is the equivalent of right-clicking me and selecting "disable Lisa." I'm not disabled by my osteogenesis imperfecta.

In other news: The EHRC has used today to launch an inquiry into disablist harassment in the wake of the Pilkington murder/suicide.

And finally: Eddie Izzard tweeted that today it's exactly 1000 days until the 2012 Paralympics (even if he did spell "Paralympics" incorrectly). Also on Twitter there's the #intdayofdisabled hashtag. Update! Now there's a Twibbon too!


  1. To me a flight of stairs without a lift as an alternative is the equivalent of right-clicking me and selecting "disable Lisa."

    Brilliant metaphor, made me laugh out loud. Will have to use that one some time...

  2. But to me, when I used to walk 2.5 miles to school and 2.5 miles back again, and now due to rheumatoid arthritis I can barely walk 12 steps to my front door, I am not disabled by anything except my disease. I am one of those you refer to. My disease has indeed disabled the me I used to be, not stairs, not other people's attitudes - this bastard of a disease.