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Is 'Handicapped' An Offensive Word?

Updated on May 9, 2012

Not in my book, but some in the disabled community feel otherwise. Personally, I use the words 'handicapped' and 'disabled' interchangeably.


Having a physical handicap, makes it necessary for me to use mobility aids. Do I want to be handicapped? Of course not. Do the disabled want to be able to move about the world quickly, unencumbered and with ease the way others do? Yes! But our disability, MS in my case, is what it is-- a handicap!

At the end of the day, we have enough problems to weigh us down and the word 'handicappped' just isn't one of them. 'Handicapped' correctly identifies us as needing special consideration and should never be perceived as offensive.

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    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Johnson 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Handicap is an offensive word to me I know. I like handi-capable instead. I accept that other are going to say it though. I enjoyed this concise hub. It is often not the case with us on hub pages.

      Thank you for taking the time to enlighten us!

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Johnson 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Handicap is an offensive word to me I know. I like handi-capable instead. I accept that other are going to say it though. I enjoyed this concise hub. It is often not the case with us on hub pages.

      Thank you for taking the time to enlighten us!

    • Patriette profile image
      Author

      Patriette 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I appreciate your point of view, Rodric. 'Handi-capable'.... if only, at least in my case. (sigh) LOL

      It's all good though. :-)

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 5 years ago

      Hello, Patriette,

      I know exactly where you're coming from. Handicapped is not an offensive word at all. In fact, the word is the accurate description of both physical and mental disabilities.

    • Patriette profile image
      Author

      Patriette 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Right on, feenix...

    • Skarlet profile image

      Skarlet 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Patriette,

      Not offended. :)

    • Patriette profile image
      Author

      Patriette 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Thanks, Skarlet. I'm so glad we're on the same page. :)

    • platinumOwl4 profile image

      platinumOwl4 4 years ago

      I think the greatest handicap is the the handicapping of the mind with political correctness. It not only does not allow you to speak about certain subject you can even have a thought for fear of offending someone Political Correctness is a handicapping devise. However, your article is fantastic.

    • Patriette profile image
      Author

      Patriette 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Thanks for stopping by Platinum, and for your thoughtful comment. I couldn't agree more.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Patriette - You have written such a reasonable and balanced way to look at this. I couldn't agree with you more. I am mildly handicapped and walk with a cane due to a stroke many years ago. It would never occur to me to take offense at the phrase. God Hub. Sharing. Hope all is well with you and your family.

      P.S. I think the fact that you ride horses is simply amazing. Maybe Rodric is right after all, MS is certainly a handicap, but you are also handi-capable and courageous! :)

    • Patriette profile image
      Author

      Patriette 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Hi Theresa - thank you for commenting, your feedback means a lot to me. The most amazing thing to me about horses, is how patient and forgiving they are with disabled riders. It's as if they somehow sense - this person needs special consideration, so I'll be nice. When I think about all the wrong cues and signals I've given the horse, yet, will allow me to ride him anyway, often fills me with awe. Also, when I'm on a horse, I'm not disabled anymore - I'm just like everyone else. Horse are wonderful and riding them is truly a great physical and emotional therapy.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Hi, Patriette--I, too, have mobility and manual dexterity problems that limit my physical abilities. I had to retire several years earlier than planned due to those issues, and it took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I am, in fact, handicapped/disabled. Once I gained that acceptance, I began to take joy in the physical things I can still do. This helps me not to yearn after those things I cannot do--at least, most of the time. I still feel frustration occasionally when I realize that a simple task I could once perform quickly and with ease is totally beyond my capability now. But...what is, is, and I try to save my energy for those things I can accomplish in spite of my limitations.

      I am personally not offended by the word "handicapped", although I understand it might be more difficult to accept by a much younger person, particularly if that individual was born with a disability and worked hard for a long time to overcome aspects of it.

      Another scenario where the word "handicapped" might be hard to hear is when the person affected was very athletic and active prior to an illness, accident or war wound that left him or her disabled and unwillingly inactive. I think each individual's situation forms the attitude of what is acceptable to that person in describing the condition. I do, however, understand your own feelings about the terms, which you expressed with clarity and reason in this hub.

      However, the designations "handicapped" and "disabled" are only words, and they're only two of a myriad of words available to describe people. As the old child's verse says, "Words can never harm me." I hope everyone coping with a disability in any form will eventually be able to reach that conclusion.

      I am so happy that you have the joy (and therapy) of riding. You not only have a physical activity that puts you on the "level playing field" we all want, but I feel certain the horse you ride is also your friend. Horses are truly wonderful, and that patience to which you refer is a special attribute of a magnificent creature.

      Voted Up+++

      Jaye

    • Theater girl profile image

      Jennifer 4 years ago from New Jersey

      I think like many other words, the intent is important here. Also, each individual's perception is unique and based in past experiences. Having a disabled person in my family, I can say that the word has been used in regards to him in a positive and negative manner. To say one word is "good" or "bad" without considering the above factors, diminishes the intelligence of us all. But, it's only my humble opinion.

    • Patriette profile image
      Author

      Patriette 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Jaye, I appreciate your thoughtful comments. You and I are definitely kindred spirits! Thanks for stopping by, friend.

    • Patriette profile image
      Author

      Patriette 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I appreciate your humble opinion, Theatre girl.

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