We all grew up hearing “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”. We all grew up knowing how untrue that is. Words hurt. The meaning behind those words hurts and so it is up to all of us to choose our words very carefully.
Language is fluid, changing as society changes. The words society once used to discuss people of other races or cultures or religions are words we probably would not use today; they are no longer acceptable, and, in fact, might be offensive.
Similarly, the words once used to discuss people who have disabilities have also changed to terms now considered more respectful. The words crippled and handicapped have been replaced by the words disabled and disability. The man has a disability. The man is disabled.
“Crippled” and “handicapped” are considered archaic and offensive terms that denigrate people with disabilities.
A local arts organization used the term crippled to describe a young boy in a stage production. They defended their choice saying it was the word in use at the time the production takes place.
What if they had been describing the musical Porgy and Bess? What word would they have chosen to describe the title characters, African Americans? Would they have chosen the words used when the story takes place? Consider carefully the words people would have used in the United States in 1912.
Aretha Franklin said it best when she sang, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T…”