Blind is Not a Bad Word

The use of certain language is a complicated issue, not just in the blind community but the disability community in general. Do we use person first or disability first language? Should we not use certain words in order to prevent drawing attention to the disability? Are there any words we shouldn’t say at all? To put it simply, it’s a nuanced issue with no straightforward answer. I think for the most part it comes from a place of wanting to be cognizant and sensitive to not say anything offensive. The real problem starts when other people try to tell you how you should be referred to. I’ve been told by both people with disabilities and able-bodied people that there’s only one right way for people to refer to me. I’m fine if others disagree with me, as long as no one is enforcing their opinion on mine. This is why I think it’s so important to view everyone as individuals because everyone is different. Two people with the same disability could have complete opposite opinions in terms of how they want to be referred to. If you are unsure or in a professional setting, I would recommend airing on the side of caution and using person first language. An example of this would be “person who is blind” rather than “blind person”. Using “partially sighted” instead of “visually impaired” is also more formal and professional. I understand it can be a lot of work to memorize every single person’s preference and if I know someone who automatically defaults to that to be safe, I won’t actively go out of my way to correct them. Personally for me, I prefer disability first language. I refer to myself as a “visually impaired person” and a “disabled person”. When I was younger, I was reluctant and try to hide it. I wanted people to see me for more than just my visual impairment. I didn’t want to let it consume me, so I would overcompensate. Whenever someone mentioned my disability I would immediately change the subject and bring up all of my other accomplishments and interests. I now realize that that came from a place of deep rooted internalized ableism. Now I realize that I can still claim my disability and own it, while not letting it consume me and be my entire identity. I now understand that it’s not up to me to make people see past my eye condition. Now I’m really happy whenever people ask me about my disability, especially when it comes to what words they should use. I’ve been going through a lot of this in university and I love encouraging my peers to open up and not be so worried to walk on egg shells around me. I want to be the person who they can mess up in front of so I can give them advice on how to deal with things in the future. I love explaining that disability isn’t a bad word or anything to hide from or be ashamed of. I also make it a point to explain that others might not think the same way I do and that we’re all different. In terms of words to avoid, I highly recommend not using the word “handicapped” because of the negative implications. I also discourage using certain made-up words such as “differently abled” or “handy capable” since I consider those to be condescending. Of course if someone specifically asks you to be called that, that’s a different story, but it’s definitely not recommended to default to that. I hope one day we can come to a place in society where blindness is completely normalized. I view it as just another fact about myself, it’s no different from the fact that I’m considered short for my age or that I have thick eyebrows. It just happens to be a small part of who I am and it’s not even something I usually think about unless attention is drawn to it. I know many others feel the same way. To summarize, we are all individuals and because of that, there is no black and white or right and wrong answer to the question of what language to use. As long as we all open our hearts and minds and keep the conversation going, we’re on the right path. by Nika

Virtual Movie Screening of “Through My Eyes” – Oct. 14th

We are so excited to announce that there was so much interest in our in-person Movie Screening Fundraiser that we have decided to host a one night only VIRTUAL screening of the documentary, “Through My Eyes”. Our screening at The Cinematheque sold out so fast that some people missed out on getting tickets and others… Read more Virtual Movie Screening of “Through My Eyes” – Oct. 14th

Image of the lens of a camera pointed directly at the viewer, the cameraman blurred in the background.

What’s It Like To Be In A Documentary?

This week’s Blog submission is something a little special. On Saturday September 18th, Blind Beginnings hosted a Movie Screening Fundraiser that featured a screening of the documentary, “Through My Eyes”, a short film that featured Blind Beginnings Executive Director Shawn Marsolais and her journey through vision loss and the eventual founding of the organization. Also… Read more What’s It Like To Be In A Documentary?