Monday, August 19, 2013

Handicapped vs. Crippled

Before the days of political correctness, physically handicapped people were referred to as cripples. As we became more PC, most people stopped using the term, understanding that it was offensive. However, there are still some people who insensitively use terms like “crip tick,” “crippled tag,” or other similar offensive nicknames for the handicapped placard for parking. It is possible that these people really don’t understand why this is offensive, so let me take a minute to explain.
            Even though the dictionary might say that cripple refers to not having the use of limbs, it has a much deeper connotation to it. When someone is crippled, they are completely incapacitated. When a trauma or situation is crippling, it leaves you incapable of doing anything at all. So, to call someone who is handicapped a “cripple,” you are basically saying that they can’t do anything at all. We all know that this is the furthest thing from the truth. Just look at the one-armed pitcher, the man who uses his feet to control his computer to do his high-level engineering, and other amazing individuals.

            I feel that this is the type of thinking that keeps people from getting the placard, bars for the bathroom, a cane, or other assistive devices. I know it took me a long time to admit that I needed these things to be able to live my life as I want. What I learned though is that admitting that I have a handicap is actually empowering. Since I think of the word “crippled” as meaning completely incapacitated, I would not consider myself crippled unless I was in a coma. Handicapped, however, just means that I need a little help with certain things. If I park closer to the door, it’s easier for me to get around inside; if I use the bar in the shower, I feel more secure and won’t be risking a fall when I feel dizzy from closing my eyes; and if I use my cane, there is less chance of tripping over the invisible hazards on the sidewalk. Without all those risks, I can get on with my life. So, my advice to people is to not let MS cripple you—take charge, become empowered, and make use of any handicap accommodations you need to live a normal, fulfilling life.