It’s hard to figure out the right thing to call someone. The phrase ‘handicapable’ is a great example. Personally, I find the phrase quite patronizing but also quite humorous. In fact, the phrase is used in Angel after one of the villains loses his hand and his partner looks at him and goes, ‘well now you’re handicapable.’ I won’t lie. I laughed my ass off. But if you use ‘handicapable’ in all seriousness, at the very least, I’m going to give you the eyebrow raise of What the Hell Are You Smoking?
There’s all sorts of words when it comes to disability. Some are offensive. Some aren’t. Some people want person first language, others feel disability is part of their identity. If you want the least offensive way to label a person, then how about this, call them by their name. If you don’t know their name, you can ask them what their name is. Chances are, they’ll have one.
Now some of you are groaning and thinking but what if we need to explain that someone’s, you know? And well you definitely have a point. There is always going to be times where you might have to mention someone’s disability. Perhaps you’re trying to find out if a place is accessible or not. Perhaps you’re a writer and just like to have as much detail as possible. It’s not my go-to word for myself, but “disabled” is an excellent choice of words or if you’re a proponent of people-first language, “person with a disability”.
But now you’re thinking, what do you use if not “disabled”? Look at the title of this blog post. I quite enjoy the word ‘gimp’ but it’s certainly not something I would recommend using if you yourself are not disabled. Words like ‘gimp/y’ and ‘crip/pled’ are often used within the disability community as reclaimatory words much like the LGBTQ community uses ‘d*ke’ and ‘f*g’. I’m not going to say, don’t use them ever, as I don’t mind if my friends use such words but that’s also because I know they don’t use those words to hurt me. They enjoy joking around with me. But when I hear those words out of stranger’s mouth, it’s a totally different atmosphere.
Ultimately, I believe context and tone have a lot more to do with how offensive someone sounds. For an instance, if a stranger came up to me and yelled at me for being crippled bitch, it would be a lot different than if one of my friends yelled at me to ‘run over someone with my crippled ass’ (we tend to have lots of jokes about running people over as I do tend to forget to look around me!).
But when need is dire, just try calling us by name. And for some of us, our names are not Professor X, Wheels, or Oracle. (Although, I personally enjoy all of those as I’m a total geek! But some people get tired of them quickly.)