Shared from the 9/25/2020 Daily American eEdition

Be mindful of your words


Why should you stop calling accessible parking spots the “handicap parking?”

I want to start by saying language and wording is important in the disability community because our daily lives are often met with stereotypes people have of people with disabilities. Like most stereotypes, the majority of people with disabilities do not fit those stereotypes.

I was guilty of referring to accessible parking spots as “handicap parking.” Once I learned why the word handicap was trying to be phased out, it was hard for me to correct a lifetime of calling it “handicap parking”. Being conscious and putting effort to change those behaviors are what matters.

If you do say “handicap” and realize it too late, it is completely OK to stop and correct yourself. Each time you do that, you will eventually remember not to say it ever again.

When someone from a minority group asks to phase out a word that most people use freely, it is most often met with the question, “Why is it a bad word to say?”

In short, handicap is defined in the dictionary as a circumstance that makes progress or success difficult.

The word handicap has been around for hundreds of years. But in the late 1800s is when it started to be used when speaking about people with disabilities.

The theory behind the negative history of the word is that Civil War veterans whose injuries prevented them from working were begging on the streets with a “cap in hand” (“handicap” backwards).

Since this theory has become legend and begging for a living is degrading, describing people with disabilities as “handicapped” is seen as offensive to some. Having a disability shouldn’t make progress or success difficult.

If society as a whole was more aware of their negative attitude toward disability and work toward universal design, people with disabilities wouldn’t have as many barriers to their success and progress.

Accessible means in compliance with federal accessibility guidelines and standards. These parking spots give people with disabilities safe and reliable access to their communities. This is why the term “accessible parking” is now the preferred terminology.

Next month, I will highlight the important reasons why accessible parking is important to people with disabilities and why accessible parking abuse can be dangerous to people who use wheelchairs for mobility.

(Barb Zablotney started as an advocate when she won the title of Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania 2018. Since then she co-founded the South Central PA United Spinal Chapter, serves as president for Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania and serves on several other nonprofit boards. She is currently employed as a consumer advocate at Laurel Medical Solutions.)

See this article in the e-Edition Here