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High time to bid goodbye to idioms that mock the disabled community

October 16, 2018

'Turning a blind eye', 'falling into deaf ears' or 'paralysed economy' are some of the common terms that we use in our day to day conversations. But have you ever thought of how the words may sound to many among us?

All these phrases are phrased from a disability perspective and clearly has a negative connotation. For instance, the term 'turning a blind eye' indicates neglect while 'paralysed economy' means an economy that is on the verge of downfall.

These phrases were coined at a time when stigma abd insensitivity towards people with disabilities was an accepted practice. But now, that we know better, we must stop.

English as a language offers many options and alternatives to words and phrases. It is high time that we exercise these options.

Amar Jain, a blind corporate lawyer from Mumbai doesn't mince words when it comes to speaking up for the rights of people with disabilities.

I feel that it is high time that we find alternatives to such terms. Even educated, prominent personalities and renowned people use such phrases. The common man who has average, or no education at all is inspired by what they say. We need to be more sensitive towards the disabled community. The #Metoo movement is gaining a lot of momentum because it is all about oppression of women and speaking up. I feel using such phrases also, in a way, oppresses disabled people. Mocking disabled people is illegal. You can even go behind bars. - Amar Jain Corporate lawyer

Most times, people do not give a second thought about the terms and phrases they use. How many of us even realise how insensitive we appear?

It is not too late to change. Each one of us must shoulder the responsibility of being change makers. Moreover, there needs to be awareness on how to be sensitive with terms and usages that one uses.

Vaishnavi Jayakumar, a disability rights activist from Chennai, says not disabled people ignore such insensitivity.

"Disabled people usually do not bother about such insensitive idioms. I don't think many people even find this offensive because most of them don't care. Words such as divyang, specially abled and differently abled can really irritate a person with a disability! Otherwise, we just ignore such idioms", says Vaishnavi.

We find such phrases and idioms not just in English but in regional languages as well. It is high time we become aware and look for alternatives.

ALSO READ: This disabled girl from Kerala is fighting roadblocks to get a driver's license

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