“Same-abled” is not a term we often use

Reprinted  from  The Omni Intelligencer

  Recently, I tweeted about an eSchool News article  explaining how technology is redefining disability.  The title of my post,  “Same-abled” is not a term we use often; Get used to it! “ didn’t sit quite right with one reader. . . .

  • On 11/17/10  P.R. wrote:
    Michael, “The article is interesting, and I like the concept but I’m not crazy about the term “Same-abled”, it seems redundant (?).  If we are all equally able, then aren’t we all just “able”? I do feel that “dis”abled is too harsh and condemning, but differently-abled, or any of those other terms seems to fit the bill. Obviously, my comment is of no great importance, I just wondered what the thought is behind same-abled, maybe I’m missing something…. “

My reply:
Not sure if I heard the term from someone else, but “same-abled” popped into mind as I reflected on the article. I regard ability as a spectrum of human potential, possessing with both breadth and depth. Many are defined contextually. For example, being paraplegic might not a disadvantage for someone with a desk job whereas being an air breather, stuck in a sinking automobile, certainly would.

Terms like blind, deaf, paraplegic, autistic are not as useful as they once were in simpler times. Historically, these terms were both a diagnosis and a conclusion (“Oh, he can’t read; he’s blind”). Today, many handicaps no longer prevent people from participating in mainstream life (talking books for the blind, wheelchairs that climb stairs, et. al.).  Technology enables ordinary folks to carry out the miraculous (“If God wanted us to fly, he would have given us wings”).  But, it also serves to solve a variety of contextual problems for those of us who are not ordinary in all ways.

I hate the term “autistics”.   I call my students Spectrum Kids.  I rarely say “autism spectrum”; instead, I say communication spectrum.  Naming disabilities is convenient for conversation.  But describing what a person needs to carry out a specific task  is infinitely more productive and encourages egalitarian thinking.  Changing the language forces me to refocus on context.  It also succeeded in getting you to think about it too.

“Same-abled” implies a more level playing field.  Not that we all bring equal talent to the game.  Some players may out-run or our-score, but nobody wins without teamwork.   Given time, technology enables  participation.

In my upcoming Internet series, “The Wonderful World Of Pinky And The Professor” I explore how specific technology is helping to “enable” autistics… I mean au-tutes… ur, Spectrum-ites…. childhood schizophrenic … disordersed… pervasive developmental disordered… you know… those other kids.

11/18/11 P.R. replied

Thanks for the explanation. I like it!
So, you are not necessarily saying that we are all inherently “same-abled”, but more that “with proper accommodations, we can all be same-abled”. Obviously some are gifted with very few struggles, but thanks to technology it is possible for each of us to have success, and each of us are an integral part of our team.

Thank you again for the response. You are correct; the story did make me stop and think!

(Deleted paragraph describing what a great teacher she thought I was. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, thank you, Yul Brenner!)

Public attitudes about Special Needs mature as technology helps to “re-humanize” those with special needs. Societal attitudes lag behind new trends.  Thaks to P.R. for giving me a public opportunity to weigh-in on the topic.  Hopefully discussions like this will help accelerate our climb to enlightenment.

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