I choose to laugh. The alternative is no fun. Anyone living with an obvious disability has experienced it. People go into verbal contortions to avoid using certain words deemed to be insensitive. Sometimes I just tell people I’m blind now. It’s easier to say and quite true for legal purposes. I’ve used the term visually impaired most often I suppose because it’s really more accurate, but that too is a clunky PC construction. “Almost blind” is my new favorite. It’s really the closest I can get to the truth of the situation, though I don’t think of myself that way. This is all I’ve ever had, so to me it’s perfect vision.
I think the most uncomfortable appellation I’ve been saddled with is “sightless.” What clueless liberal dreamed that one up? Thankfully I have not encountered it often. I’m a big fan of calling a thing what it is. All of us facing some kind of mental or physical insufficiency are lumped into one big category that has also acquired various PC labels over the years. We’ve been disabled, a term I still use for the sake of peaceful coexistence. We’ve been physically or mentally challenged. We’ve been people with disabilities. Then there are the real aberrations such as “differently able.” What on earth is that supposed to mean?
My favorite is probably the most politically incorrect of the bunch. I think handicapped is actually the best word. A common objection to this word is that it has its origin in the idea that people with disabilities had no option but to beg. They had a cap in hand. First of all, this is not true. I generally do not recommend Snopes as a good source of information, but this particular article does a good job of explaining the real etymology of the word.
Second, we get way too wrapped up in what was instead of what is. Even if the supposed history of the word were correct, no one understands it to have that meaning today. We know it to refer to one of two things. It is either descriptive of a person with a disability or a term used in competition to indicate an encumbrance placed on a contestant to equalize the field. In fact, the latter is the true history of the word. The handicap is put on the best horse to give the others a chance, so why would I resent that? Bring it on. I’m still going to win.