In the last couple of decades the language surrounding disability has become very fluid, less specific and just generally vague because “disability” is seen as a dirty word whose associations have negative affects on the people to whom it’s applied. In a move that fools exactly no one supposedly positive euphemisms have been introduced to replace referring to people as disabled. Words like “differently-abled” and “special needs”. These terms are suppose to reduce the stigma associated with disability by framing disabled people with positive language.
Does it work?
Comparisons to and associations with disability are still considered offensive to nondisabled people.
Take for example the fact that Anglophone Quebec residents (a minority in the province) warranted an apology when a provincial website referred to English language users as Quebecers with special-needs. An error that has blamed on poor translation.
In a bilingual country, translation errors occur all the time and are usually corrected without incident. However when that error accidentally associates a large group of people with disability it makes national news.
Considering the real tensions between francophone and anglophone Quebecers this will be seen as a slight to the Anglo minority. If a possible and likely translation error that inaccurately associates a majority nondisabled group with disability causes enough controversy to be covered by the news, the term is not functioning as intended.
Associations with disability even when accidental are still causing offense even with so called “positive” language.
Time to do away with the misleading and lazy language and deal with the real stigma and prejudice.