Top 7 Phrases That Confine

Everyone has words they hate, or names they hate being called. As a person with a disability, there are words that are considered “hateful” and “not politically correct”. Each person with a disability has a different opinion to what they prefer. To me, “physically challenged” is offensive, however, “crippled” has no effect on me, but to a lot of people, it’s the worst. Here are some explanations for phrases and words common in our society that people with disabilities consider confine them to their disability.

7 Worst Phrases

Wheelchair-Bound: This one is the biggest NO. It’s just misleading. We can leave our wheelchairs. I don’t sleep in my wheelchair, I can sit on the couch, in a car, in a booth at a restaurant. We’re not tied to our wheelchairs. They’re simply used as legs.

Confined to a Wheelchair: see above. But also, would you like to be confined to anything? Are we prisoners?

Crippled: I don’t have a problem with it when used in the right context, but it can be used as in a derogatory way, and many of us aren’t frail as porcelain china as the word makes us sound.

Inspirational: This one is purely situational. There’s a difference between inspirational and inspiration porn. We draw inspiration from a lot of places. But if you’re making yourself feel good by doing something out of pity for a person with a disability (i.e. the prom proposals from “able bodied” teens to their “disabled” classmates) that’s inspiration porn. There’s a fine line and society loves inspiration porn. (This topic will be discussed at length in another post this month)

Special: What. Makes. Us. Special? Most of us just want to be treated equal. We’re no better or worse. We don’t poop rainbows and definitely don’t feel special most of the time when addressed as such.

Warrior: I’m not aiming this at parents of children with disabilities. But please, please, please think of your child when calling them this. You may think you’re helping their confidence and making them feel better. But many, many, many of my friends with disabilities think this does more harm than good and it was a common word brought up when asking what to write for this. Yes, we experience a lot. But EVERY HUMAN experiences pain. Someone’s level 10 pain, could be our level 3 pain. It doesn’t mean that person’s level 10 pain isn’t valid.

Gimp: Another word I don’t mind hearing and I don’t hear often (except between my friends with disabilities) I guess it’s like the black community having names for each other. It’s not allowed by anyone other than a person with a disability. I don’t hear it often enough to have more of an opinion, there’s just a derogatory nature about it, and there are WAY better words.


  1. Karen Rothe Osband

    January 3, 2019 at 11:45 am

    I am very interested in your posts, Sam, but I find this one a bit confusing. Now I’m wondering what would I tell someone I am sending to pick up a person who uses a wheelchair? I am actually in this situation quite often where I live (197 homes of people 55+, most over 70, many who have some special needs). I normally would say ‘they use a wheelchair’ in that case to prepare the person going to get them for the need to handle the storage of a wheelchair in their car for the trip. Is that OK? Many of us here have ‘tags’ associated with our limitations that other people need to know about for one reason or another. Some of us have hearing problems, are sight-challenged, have balance issues, are on medications that need to be taken often and perhaps monitored, or many are just seniors… that potentially require some adjustment or special care of some kind or another. I recently took a long (3 day 2 night) train trip to Milwaukee from my home state of Oregon and had an ‘accessible’ compartment for the trip. Before I could complete a reservation for this compartment I had to tell the Amtrak reservations agent why I required that accommodation (sight, hearing, and balance issues, and traveling with a service dog in my case). I didn’t object to any of these ‘labels’ because they are true, a fact of my life at 76 years old, and I appreciated the opportunity to have as comfortable and safe a trip as possible, and it was… Yes, those are also words that ‘confine’ but I was happy they made this trip possible for me. So again, tell me what is appropriate in other situations.

    1. raeofsunnshyne

      January 3, 2019 at 11:50 am

      “Using a wheelchair” is completely fine. Just because it says wheelchair or accessible or disability doesn’t mean it’s confining. Once you bind someone to their disability where it makes them who they are such as “bound to a wheelchair” it sounds like they’re tied into it, and don’t move from it. For example, I get into a car, sit on the couch, sleep in a bed. The wheelchair doesn’t come with me. In regards to having to explain why you need a certain accommodation, I appreciate that Amtrak asked because not every accommodation should be treated the same. Everyone has different abilities, even those not considered disabled.

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