Just a friendly reminder that the majority of the disability community does not use phrases like 'special needs and 'differently abled.' In fact, I cannot think of a single disabled adult I know who uses that language to refer to themselves or the community.
Why is it problematic?
Needing accommodations is not special treatment, nor is asking for equal access to public transportation, education, healthcare, housing, and employment. Some disabled people may need additional support or tools, but disabled and non-disabled people's needs are not altogether different. Our access might look different, but fundamentally disabled people are asking for the same civil rights.
Phrases like 'special needs and 'differently abled' are not used in the United States legal code and civil rights statutes. The words disability, disabilities, and disabled refer to a federally protected class of people.
Special needs isn't an all-encompassing, inclusive term. Not all disabled students in K-12 are in special education classrooms, have the exact support needs, and require the same programs. In fact, 60% of disabled students spend 80% of their day in general education.
In 2016, a number of disabled activists began the #SaytheWord campaign to bring attention to the fact disabled is not a bad word. Using euphemisms for disability actively diminishes and erases disability as normative and human.
It's been 31 years since the Americans with Disability Rights Act was passed. Yet disabled people are still fighting for equity and justice. #SayTheWord
Sarah Martin is a student at St. Paul School of Theology and a member of the Association of Ministers with Disabilities. This essay and link are copied from her Facebook page with permission.