Banning the D-word, because ability matters more

I recently attended a charity conference and sat through a talk about Disability Living Allowance. And I have to admit, I tuned out. Many of the people there were entitled to it, and no doubt rely on it to support their family. But not only do I not believe in claiming for anything if you don’t need to, I think claiming would open a whole other can of worms.

By claiming for Kitty, we’d be applying a label; one I don’t want to define her, in her eyes or other people’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t object to the words ‘disabled’ or ‘disability’. There are people who need those classifications to get the help and support they need; but I don’t want them to be in our family’s vocabulary. I really think not categorising our little girl is key to her self-esteem.

Of course Kitty’s different and of course, people will sometimes treat her differently because of her arm. But I want other things – like being kind, funny, clever and determined – to define who Kitty is.

I want her to hear, every single day, positive words that make her feel good about herself. For her to then use those words to describe herself and believe them. And I never want her to give up before she’s even tried because of someone else’s classification.

Although she can’t read yet, I’ve found a quote I’m going to hang on our wall.

‘She believed she could, so she did’

Now it’s our job to find those magic words that will make her believe. And the D-word definitely won’t be one of them.

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What am I? Cheeky and charming!

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3 Comments

  1. Whilst I understand where you are coming from, are you not by your own definition making disability a negative term?

    I am disabled. I am also a highly skilled teacher. I am also a mother. I am also a woman in a STEM subject. None of these things define me as a singular thing, but to outrightly deny that I have a physical disability places a huge white elephant in the room. It also suggests that it’s something that I should hide to make others feel more comfortable. In the words of a late, great woman “No amount of smiling, or positive thinking will ever turn those stairs into a ramp”.

    Recently, one of my students called me a cripple. Ouch – I know right? Except, because I don’t see having a disability as a negative thing, I was able to explain where the word cripple came from and why using it is deemed offensive.

    Your beautiful (and oh gosh isn’t she!), happy, daughter will eventually come across some of the real life trolls in this world who like to hurl words around just to hurt people. If she picks up on your own negativity towards the label, she will be more likely to allow others to use it as a negative word against her.

    This year has been tough for my 200+ kids seeing me rocking up in a wheelchair. They asked a lot of questions and some had never encountered an open physical disability before. So we talked about it. They’re learning that disability just means we adapt – I now mark their work online & instead of tinsel in my hair, I have fairy lights on my chair.

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    1. My point is that I don’t want to define her by that one thing. As you say, there’s so much more that you are and I want those things to be more important than one definition. I’m sorry if it comes across as negativity – it isn’t intended to be. I know Kitty is different, but I’d rather use that D-word, because we’re all different in one way or another. I also know she’ll encounter horrible, small-minded people and that there will be times when she’ll be hurt by their words. And that’s why I want her to focus on other definitions, so she has the confidence to show them how much more there is to her. Just the same way I don’t want people pigeon-holing her because she’s a girl, I don’t ever want anyone to under-estimate her because of her arm. And as we have no need to officially classify her as disabled, we won’t. Through working with the charity that supports kids like Kitty, it seems there’s very little that can stop them. In fact, most of them are far more accomplished and daring than many people with two arms will ever be! And that’s all I want for Kitty – for her to know that no-one defines her except her. Hope that clarifies my point. And thanks for getting in touch x

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      1. I’m sorry if I offended. I genuinely hope that the improvements in equality mean that as she grows up, people see her in her own right. I have no doubt that she will define herself being surrounded by a family that backs her up, and I and many others will keep fighting to get society in general to frown upon (or even better, stand up to) those few who think it’s OK to make unkind or rude comments.

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