Differently Abled

Meanings of “Differently Abled”

The phrase “differently abled” means a person suffering from a disability either physical or mental. A physical disability might be from birth or later suffered from an accent. The mental disability could be one of the forms of autism. Instead of using derogatory terms such as handicapped, using differently abled is a polite way of describing a person with the mentioned challenges.

Origin of “Differently Abled”

The phrase “differently abled” is just three decades old, originated in the 1980s in the United States. The first appearance of this phrase happened in The Los Angeles Times in its edition of September 1980 where it has been used with reference to the festival workers. Later, the phrase has become popular with the same words and same meanings.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

The Differently Abled by Ajit Das

Like all of you I, too, came into the world
from the womb of my mother,
but with a difference – I was deformed.
I didn’t know what it meant to me.

As I grew into consciousness,
I realized I was not normal, needing
a crutch, extra care that bordered on pity.
A complex feeling swelled within me:
I was inferior, and it choked my voice.

But I wanted to be heard, treated as an equal,
not someone lesser than others, dismissed
as a disabled from the avenues of life.
I started believing in my ability, working hard,
proving multiple times my contributing part.

Steadily, I have clambered up the stiff climb,
gouging steps with my iron axe of resolve,
standing on the cliff, still showing what I look like.

The poem describes the courage of disabled persons and their capabilities to the readers. A disabled person does not come into the world incapacitated. She/he may be deformed, disabled, or a differently-abled, a person suffering from any other disability, but he is not lower than all of us. He is equal to us. The poet expresses the feelings of such a person who wants to be treated equally to others. The phrase is not used in the poem but this metaphorical poem emphasizes its meaning and usage.

Example #2

Rudolph, the differently-abled Reindeer by John F. McCullagh

Rudolph was differently-abled
As nearly everybody knows.
He suffered discrimination
because he had a nose that glows.

All of the alt-right Reindeer
Were bigoted and called him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
Participate in Reindeer games

Then one foggy holiday Eve
O.S.H.A came to say
“This hostile workplace violates rules
There will be hefty fines to pay!”

Now all of  the Reindeer hate him
but learned to hide it carefully.
They just spent two weeks in training
For Reindeer sensitivity.

This poem is an allegory in which a disabled reindeer fails to win recognition in his community where all other reindeers call him names and do not let him play with them. He mentions that one day the Occupation Safety Health Administration (OSHA) people come there to order the reindeers that they should be fined for violating healthy workplace relationships. All the reindeers still harbor hate but do not express it. This means that the poet is quite ironic by this allegory that though people hide their hatred, or dislike for the disabled but pretend to be sensitive towards the differently-abled people. They also use the phrase to express their love and solidarity.

Example #3

Incredible Champions by N. Chandrasekaran

First, she was deeply disturbed by a child who was afflicted with cerebral palsy and donated a wheelchair. This happened when she was in school, as mentioned earlier. She was moved by a number of differently abled children in her locality. Developed nations have policies and practices to detect such problems early and work on providing support to reduce the severity of the consequences of crippling.

This passage is about differently-abled people of India by Chandrasekaran. Here, he writes about Dr. Sai Lakashmi who visits a village and sees that though some are genuinely disabled she has seen several of them differently abled who could prove productive in their lives. The author also compares the policies and benefits given to differently abled people in the developed countries and developing countries.

Example #4

Bad Language: Are Some Words Better Than Others? by Edwin Battistella

The term handicapped, while less offensive than crippled, carries the connotation of being held back in some competitive enterprise (we talk of social handicaps, golf handicaps, and racing handicaps) and is unwelcome by some people with disabilities. As both public policy and social attitudes have shifted from seeing disabilities in terms of individuals’ conditions (crippled) to their prospects (handicapped) to their situation (as requiring reasonable accommodation), language has evolved as well. What about the term physically challenged? This term seems less than optimal since it is both long and somewhat euphemistic, representing disability almost as an opportunity to test oneself. Euphemisms call attention to a speaker’s connotation and so the term singles out the disabled in the same way that disparaging usage might. In the American Association of University Presses’ Guidelines for Bia-Free Writing, Marilyn Schwartz notes that in many contexts such alternatives as physically challenged, physically (or mentally) different, differently abled, exceptional, and special may suggest “that disabled people belong to a different or uncommonly race species or that having a disability is an exciting adventure.”

In this passage, the author believes that there are several words used for the same meanings but some of them prove negative, while recent uses of some euphemistic words have removed them from the general vocabulary. He has mentioned the book Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing to stress upon his point that though differently abled people are the same, the word does not show negative meanings.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Why are you treating all of your friends like differently-abled people. You are not the only person in this group who knows the coding.”

Example #2: “Mary Jimstart is a differently abled person with high intellectual abilities.”

Example #3: “Though Henry is my differently abled friend, he is the only person I know who helps when you need the most.”

Example #4: “Ian hated when people called him a handicapped person. He lost his leg after the war and became differently abled but he was still courageous than the most.”

Example #5: “Some of the most differently abled persons have proved the most abled persons.”