Language matters. How we speak matters. It shapes our worlds.
I was recently listening to an interview around diversity and inclusion, and someone used a phrase which we have all heard at one time or another. It was a common phrase and one that I’ve even used. At that moment, however, it dawned on me how completely ableist and exclusionary it was.
After this, I started to examine other phrases, metaphors or sayings I was so used to hearing or saying which are equally as problematic. So here is my top 10, including the initial one mentioned.
The last 3 of this list I have used to demonstrate that ableist language can occur in many contexts.
1. “Climbing the corporate ladder.”
2. “Stairway to heaven.”
3. “Standing ovation.”
4. “Dumb things down.”
5. “Walk a mile in my shoes.”
6. “Turn a blind eye.”
7. “Standup meeting.”
8. “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
9. “I don’t see your disability.”
10. “A person who is able-bodied.”
These sayings or phrases either exclude people with disabilities or use words to describe the disability in a negative light.
Here are some tips to go by if you are unsure if you are using ableist language:
1. Is it a word that’s related to a disability?
2. Is it being used in a negative way?
3. Do I have the privilege of being able to reclaim the word?
4. Am I using the word in a reclaiming way?
Words are powerful and matter, use them wisely.