Posted by: manafanana | November 5, 2009

Ableist Language in Advocacy

Advocacy in Flawed Systems: Using Shackling Language to Help a PWD?

This is a great post from FWD/Forward, an awesome blog that focuses on the intersection of feminism and disability issues. The post discusses how advocates are often obliged to use ableist language in order to get aid from government programs for their clients. Making their clients seem as helpless and tragic as possible helps ensure they qualify for the programs. This puts advocates in the impossible position of having to be complicit in the perpetuation of stereotypes about people with disabilities in order to get their clients the benefits they’re entitled to.

I actually remember this being an issue in our house back in the 90s when my mom was fighting to get my dad benefits. She always tried to make him look like the good little “vegetable” when it came time to beg the government or the insurance companies to please pay for what they have an obligation to pay for anyway. We’d have to emphasize all the things he couldn’t do and explain how “horrible” life had become for him. If they saw him as, you know, a PERSON with lots of friends who was capable of enjoying life, they would pack up and take off. There’s an assumption in the government that people with disabilities should either be miserable or (apparently) be produce before they’re “legitimately” disabled, and it’s unfair to the individual, their loved ones, their caregivers, and their advocates.

It’s also mystifying for those of us who’ve never seen a human being  suddenly turn into a carrot.



  1. thanks for the link! i’m glad it resonated with you, although i’m sorry you and your parents had that experience. take care!

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