A Word About Political Correctness
In the aftermath of Don Imus' firing over offensive comments made regarding the Rutgers University women's basketball team, I have heard a number of people decry the radio host's dismissal as an example of the overly heightened atmosphere of political correctness that exists in our society. While it has become fashionable to criticize the concept of political correctness, I think that's a bit extreme.
People should always consider how the way they describe others affects them. If you're one of those people who asks, "How am I supposed to know what is offensive?" use some common sense.
That said, when it comes to disability (a topic on which I am obviously qualified to speak), I must say that some of the conventions of political correctness are a bit overdone. Even I don't follow some of them, so I really don't care much if others don't follow them.
For example, you're not supposed to call someone a "disabled person," but a "person with a disability." The logic, which is certainly understandable, is that you should focus on the person first, not his or her disability. Trust me, people will adopt such language, but they will still have no idea how to act around a person like me. I'd much rather have people treat me well than merely use the right language when they refer to me. It is well known that people are uncomfortable interacting with people like me to begin with. If I sit there and get so particular about what words people use to describe me, how is that going to make them feel any more comfortable?
At the same time, it's understandable why it's not nice to refer to someone as "wheelchair-bound" ("in a wheelchair" is appropriate). It has recently come to my attention that I should be referring to my muscular dystrophy as a "disorder," not a "disease." I'm not sure how I feel about that one. The idea behind it is that muscular dystrophy is definitely not a "virus" that makes a person "sick," which is what the word, "disease" implies. But I don't particularly like the word, "disorder" either. In my own writing, when I use the word "disease," it has no meaning to me. I'm simply using it as a point of reference in conveying my thoughts. That argument obviously doesn't fly when it comes to describing a person's race, religion, etc., but I'm only talking about political correctness as it pertains to disability.
I'm sure that there is no shortage of opinions out there on this subject, so let's hear them...