Why do we use a capital D for Disabled?
Disability – a shared identity
Why is the capital D important?
Using a capital D for the word Disabled shows it is important to recognise that society continues to create barriers for people with impairments, and those barriers need to be removed. The capital D also shows that Disabled people have a shared identity and are part of a community that continues to fight for our rights and equality just like other groups in society like Black people or LGBT people.
Impairment and Disability, what’s the difference?
Impairment means a condition or diagnosis a person has such as physical or sensory impairment, learning difficulty, neurodiversity or mental health issues. Even though impairments bring their own challenges, having an impairment is not what makes someone a Disabled person. What disables people are the barriers that society creates for people with impairments.
For example, a wheelchair user is a Disabled person because the environment has not been made accessible for them, not because they are unable to walk. If they cannot enter a school building because there are no lifts, the lack of a lift is a barrier that has been created by society, and that is what disables them.
Another example is a person who has been diagnosed with neurodiversity (eg autism). What makes them a Disabled person is society’s response to their label of autism, not the autism. The response they receive can also be a barrier. For example, they may experience negative attitudes from other people. Another barrier might be if they struggle at school because curriculum content and teaching methods are often inflexible, and little is done to change this.
Even though Disabled people may have different impairments, the barriers that society creates are what they all have in common. That is why we use a capital D when we talk about Disabled people.