Monday, July 30, 2012

Recognizing Ableist Language in the Autism and Autistic Communities

Lydia Brown
autistichoya.blogspot.com

It's everywhere.
"Autism isn't mental illness. We're not like those people."

"It wasn't an autistic person who would commit mass murder. Only people with actual mental illness, like psychopaths or schizophrenics do that kind of thing."

"Those ideas are insane!"

"Autism Speaks's idea of representing Autistic people is absolutely crazy."

"People who want to give their kids bleach enemas are just nuts. Their ideas are nuts."
It comes not merely from Autistics and non-Autistic parents and professionals and researchers but also from Autistics and non-Autistic parents and professionals and researchers who are disability rights advocates and activists.

Take the humble pill, recognize your own strands of ableism, and stop using the ableist language. It is not okay to refer to ideas and people with whom you disagree as 'insane' or 'crazy' or 'nuts' or 'loony,' because those are hateful and hurtful words just as much as the word 'retarded.' 


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Editor's notes:

Disability Scoop also covers this exact topic today.

Lydia wrote and then used crowd sourcing within the disability community to expand the list of ableist (and non-ableist alternatives) terms below. To be clear: the very people whom these terms disparage have helped create this list, and are asking for your help in teaching others not to use this kind of language. When in doubt, consider whether you would use a term in front of someone who could be wounded or take offense.


Blind to ____
Refers to Blind people or people with visual impairments. Acceptable use: Referring to people who are actually Blind or who have visual impairments.

Bound to a wheelchair (wheelchair bound)
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Confined to a wheelchair
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Crazy 
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term, or referring to self as language reclamation.

Cretin
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Crippled (by ____)
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term, or referring to self as language reclamation (usually as "crip").

Deaf-Mute
Refers to Deaf people or people with hearing impairments. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Deaf to ____
Refers to Deaf people or people with hearing impairments. Acceptable use: Referring to people who are actually Deaf or who have hearing impairments.

Derp (also herp-derp and variations)
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Diffability
Can refer to any person with a disability. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Differently abled
Can refer to any person with a disability. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Dumb
Refers to Deaf people or people with hearing impairments, people with speech impairments, or people with linguistic or communication disorders or disabilities. Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Handicap(ped)
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term, referring to legal standards that use this term, or referring to self as language reclamation.

Handicapable
Usually refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities, but can also mean any person with a disability. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Idiot(ic)
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Imbecile
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Insane or Insanity
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term, or referring to self as language reclamation.

Invalid
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities or chronic health conditions. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term, or referring to self as language reclamation.

Lame
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Loony
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term, or referring to self as language reclamation.

Lunatic
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term, or referring to self as language reclamation.

Madhouse
Refers to an institution housing people with mental or psychiatric disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Mongoloid
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities and specifically Down Syndrome. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Moron(ic)
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Nuts
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term, or referring to self as language reclamation.

Retard(ed)
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Spaz(zed)
Refers to people with cerebral palsy or similar neurological disabilities. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term, or referring to self as language reclamation.

Specially Abled
Can refer to any person with a disability. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Special Needs
Usually refers to people with learning, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, but can mean any person with a disability. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term, or referring to self as language reclamation (usually as "I'm special").

Stupid
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities (i.e. "in a stupor"). Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

Suffers from ____
Can refer to any person with a disability. Acceptable use: Discussing contemporary or historical use of the term.

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Non-ableist language:
Always respect an individual person's preference for self-identification or self-description.

For insulting people's intelligence:
  • Unintelligent
  • Ignorant
  • Ignoramus
  • Asinine
  • Insipid
For describing people with disabilities/disabled people in general:
  • Disabled
  • Has a disability
  • With a disability
  • With a chronic health condition
  • Has a chronic health condition
For describing people on the autism spectrum:
  • On the autism spectrum
  • Autistic
  • With autism [if preferred by individual]
For describing people with intellectual disabilities:
  • With an intellectual disability
  • Has an intellectual disability
  • With a cognitive disability
  • Has a cognitive disability
For describing people with sensory disabilities or impairments:
  • Blind
  • Deaf
  • Hard of hearing
  • With hearing impairment
  • With visual impairment
  • Hearing impaired
  • Visually impaired
For describing people with physical or mobility disabilities:
  • With a physical disability
  • With a mobility disability
  • Uses a wheelchair
  • In a wheelchair
  • Uses crutches
  • Uses a cane
  • Uses a walker
  • Has [specific condition here] 
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This post is based on two essays at autistichoya.blogspot.com.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Okay but literally stating that autism ISN'T a mental illness ISN'T ableism.. It's a neurodevelopmental disability, which I have, and I also happen to have mental illness, which means I'm sick. I'm not sick\mentally ill BECAUSE I'm autistic, to say so is ableist in itself. Something I do not appreciate other autistic people perpetuating, because that's misinformation, and that makes MY life hard. .If that top line were just erased, this would be perfect.