I don’t particularly like labels, but I have to admit they can be useful at times. I recently reorganized my home office and putting labels on the storage boxes has been incredibly helpful for finding things I am looking for. Labels can also help identify someone who may need extra services. Knowing if someone is a diabetic or a vegetarian might change the menu options I would offer at an event. Labels can help me plan appropriate modifications. As a teacher, labels were useful to remind me to provide accommodations for students who might need something special like larger print, extra help with note-taking, etc. The downside of these labels happens when we see the label instead of looking at the person.
Recently our local news program covered an inspirational story about a young man who uses a wheelchair, but with some help he was able to fulfill a dream to go down the Grand Canyon and put his toes in the Colorado River. With help from family and friends he hiked down and then back up the Grand Canyon. I loved the story, except for the ill-informed news anchors and how they referred to this young man as they introduced the story. The first anchor introduced the story of a “wheelchair-bound” young boy. Immediately this conjured up images of someone tied up to a chair with ropes and/or duct tape. Next the other anchor actually described this young man as “stuck in a wheelchair” which had me wondering if copious amounts of glue were somehow involved in this horrible tragedy.
Please don’t misunderstand, I am not the politically correct police, but after years of working with individuals who also happen to have disabilities I get frustrated when these incredible men and women are reduced to trite labels.
Yes, that young man did have a physical disability that required the use of a wheelchair for mobility, but he was not ‘stuck’ or ‘bound’ to the chair. Despite his physical limitations, he was participating in an activity that many able-bodied individuals would be hesitant to try.
Let’s focus more on a person and less on a label and we will all be better off for it.
To view the story click here: