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Opening Arguments

Just words

Via Doug at Masson's Blog: Indiana Senate Bill 94 would make changes to a lot of terms dealing with disabilities. For example, it would change “hearing, deaf, and hard of hearing individuals to individuals who hear, individuals who are deaf, and individuals who are hard of hearing.” It would change participant who was permanently disabled to participant who had a permanent disability.” It would changes children who are mentally retarded” to “children who have mental retardation.

Doug adds:

And it goes on like this for 177 pages. I mean, I get the point. “My disability doesn't define me!” But, if you're picking through the Indiana Code making changes at this level of subtlety, perhaps it does. In any event, it passed the Senate 47 to 0.

This same sort of semantic touchiness is going on in the mental-health community. For all of its existence, a group dedicated to mental-illness awareness called itself National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. About a year ago, the name was changed to National Alliance on Mental Illness. Now, whenever someone forgets and uses the old name, they are likely to get a snippy e-mail from someone at NAMI patiently explaining how insensitive and unfeeling it is to refer to people as "the" so and sos. (You would not say "the blacks," now would you?) How this can be so insensitive when it didin't even occur to the folks at NAMI until very recently is not explained. Many people with severe mental illness (maybe even most) are not quite so fussy about this -- they're too busy just coping. It's mostly their advocates, it seems to me.