Language Matters :: Podcast on Language and Disability :: Dr. Dave Martin, Auburn University

I enjoyed creating a podcast for Camp ASCCA recently with Dr. Dave Martin from Auburn Uninversity’s Department of Rehabilitation and Special Education. So, I am reposting it here in my blog because I believe it has specific implications for public relations practitioners.

…language matters
and we all need to be ever aware of how we refer
to people with disabilities so that we do not lose sight of their abilities…

Our discussion revolved around language and how its use may perpetuate stereotypes of people – who happen to have a disability – as “unable.” And, those who know better realize that people with disabilities are actually quite able. This issue of language use has tremendous implications for public relations.

For instance, some research has shown that someone that has a disability is likely to be a more loyal employee and will actually present their employer with fewer sick days than average employees. This depends upon what you define as a disability, of course, but it is those definitions – used casually by all of us in everyday conversation – that set the tone for how we perceive disabilities.

One aspect of Camp ASCCA that I have always enjoyed and appreciated is how people without disabilities react when they are exposed to the recreational activities the campers engage in from high adventure to something as casual as swimming. It changes your perceptions of what is a disability. It actually removes the stereotypes.

When you see how an appliance – like a wheelchair or an adaptive harness – can enable a tennis game or climb up a treehouse or tower, you realize that these are not confining devices (as Dr. Martin points out) but really devices of liberation. Another aspect of this is the barrier-free architecture of camp. When people see that the cost per square foot is minimal to create such an environment they may think twice when building their own facilities. A little thought and consideration can be liberating for millions of citizens.

Of course, above I used the term “appliance” and that also is an unfortunate word. But, what do we call these things and these conditions? That is one area I hope the Camp ASCCA online community will address in the months and years to come.

Length of the podcast is 18:39 and the file size is 17.0mb.  Listen below.