[Air-l] ableist language

Rasputin rasputin at sukinsyn.com
Fri Sep 8 17:19:59 PDT 2006

If it were her intent to point out the potential derision that one may infer
from the use of a word like "blind" it would be the end of it. However, she
must have forgotten psych 101 and "Labeling theory."

Referring to Dr. Cornwell as Mr. Cornwell and then referring to Dr. Godard
correctly points to another motive.

Secondly, to say a thought is "abelist" is different than saying a person is
an "abelist." If she or you don't see the difference, pity!

To me her intent was far clearer than Drs. Godard or Cornwell.

-----Original Message-----
From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org
[mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Michele White
Sent: Friday, September 08, 2006 1:24 PM
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Subject: [Air-l] ableist language

I want to support Kathy Mancuso's consideration of the
ways the language that we use to describe things can
privilege some individuals and continue to produce a
series of binaries. This is an important and
appropriate post to the list and I hope that we can
take her questions and concerns seriously. Her
question and debate are related to disability activism
and studies and have been incorporated into
Internet/new media studies by such people as Gerard
Goggin and Chrisopher Newell. 

A variety of academics have indicated how we often
associate seeing and visual processes with knowledge
and truth (see for instance Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes:
The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French
Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press,

To say something like "I see what you mean" indicates
comprehension. Unfortunately, statements like "are you
blind?" suggest that the person cannot recognize the
obvious, is deficit, and stupid. Therefore, when we
use the word "blind" to indicate that someone is less
perceptive, unknowing, or clueless, we also denigrate
individuals who are described as blind because of the
ways their eyes function. In doing this, we establish
a norm and indicate that the physically blind are
deficit. This may be unintentional but it does have
serious consequences for the ways bodies are
understood and people are valued or devalued.

I certainly have found my language to sometimes
unintentionally dismiss and categorize people. I
believe that it is worth thinking about the ways we
say things and how this may have unintentional
consequences and support powers and authorities that
we would rather critique.

All my best,

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