This photo is pretty self-explanatory – it’s a begger with his cap in his hand. But a lot of people don’t know that this is where the term, “handicap” came from. This is a big part of the reason why that term is now disfavored.
In addition, when you talk about a Black or Hispanic individual, you don’t usually mention their race first, if at all. This is why people with disabilities advocate for “people first” language. Rather than say, ”That’s a wheelchair-bound person,” why not say, “That’s a person in a wheelchair.” That way, you are identifying their humanity before mentioning their disability.
These may seem like unimportant issues, but it is our common discourse that helps mold the self-image of the people we are talking about. And for most of the people with disabilities that I know, they would like to be thought of first as who they are, not what they have. And that goes for me, too.
See the link below for more info.
In Kenny Fries’s recent NYT column, he described how Hitler targeted people with disabilities as well as Jews for extermination. He was able to do this because he convinced his followers that these lives were not as valuable as others, and that the world would be better off without them.
But Mr. Fries did not stop at the Holocaust – he also wrote about how similar thinking caused the Supreme Court to allow involuntary sterilization of women considered “imbeciles” to keep them from “continuing their kind.” (See my 9/29/17 post)
Mr. Fries then went on to say that while Hitler was demonized and involuntary sterilization is now almost alway illegal, there is a certain kind of thinking that still lingers – the idea that it is socially and economically acceptable to prioritize certain kinds of lives over others. He also wrote that it is this kind of thinking that justifies the calls for cutting Medicaid and irrevocably worsening the lives of many people – especially the elderly, the poor and the disabled.
One of the people Mr. Fries referred to was the Rev. Susan Flanders. Ms. Flanders has since written a letter to the NYT, saying that she believes Mr. Fries inaccurately portrayed her views. “The issue here is whether people can have a quality of life that is meaningful and valuable to them” she wrote, ”…and I would never favor cutting short such a life.”
In the interest of being fair to both sides, I am attaching a copy of her letter below. But I would never try to represent that this issue is as simple as two opposing posts. After all, we are literally talking about life and death here.