Join The Strength’s Revolution
Nearly four decades ago, long before the term political correctness was a thing, I fought against the terminology used to describe the people group I had been thrust into at age twenty-two when I broke my neck.
Because language shapes perception and perception shapes language, there is nothing honoring, strengthening or positive about the terms disabled and/or handicapped. And yet, these terms are still the universal nomenclature for men, women and children who through birth, accident or injury find themselves a part of this people group. Not only must they hear the de-valuing language used to describe them, they also must use it in reference to themselves and others (I have steadfastly refused in every way possible throughout my life as a sit-down person to use these terms).
I unpacked this in chapter sixteen in my book. The chapter, Mirror, Mirror on the wall, culminates with a resilient response unearthed from our pain: to combat injustice with righteous indignation; this is my attempt at it.
This is not about identity politics or inclusivity (we are sick to death of those diatribes) but rather an appeal to our shared sense of respect and a global desire to commit to a language-shift that honors one another. And my gosh folks, while I’m on my soapbox and you’re taking the time to read this, shouldn’t we want to honor all people and control what kind of language comes out of our mouths, period?
“The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
The respect and honor goes far deeper than our language too. I don’t understand the lack of courtesy when people are wheelchair users and strangers, or just-met acquaintances, query with their ever-so apologetic tone, “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to you?”
I do mind. For several reasons. First, if you had a large bulbous nose, I would never point out the obvious. It would be utterly rude AND negatively impact any relationship building. The question does not draw us closer. Then there is the doofus, whose attempt, I guess, is to connect with me, who says, “I had to be in a wheelchair once for two weeks.” Ugg. But the third reason, and most disturbing one, is few seem to have the foresight to consider that the trauma that makes one a sit-down person (or differently-abled) is not something they want to retell over and over. My injury is nearly 40 years old. What if my story is that I became paralyzed because my father shot me? Would you want to retell that story, and to perfect strangers? The majority of people’s traumas are hidden within (abuse, neglect, disease, losses, addiction) and therefore nobody’s asking, and they don’t wear a T-shirt announcing it. We want you to connect with us as a person, FIRST. I may or may not share with you why I am a sit-down person. That is my prerogative.
So here’s what I am asking you to do.
By Joining the Strength’s Revolution and signing the pledge, you are personally committing to a Language-Shift for my people group; and re-affirming a strength-based psychology model by practicing courteousness and withholding questions or comments that negate relationship building.
That’s it. No policing, no one checking up on you, no coercion.
I know some of you are probably thinking, “Ok, but what language should I use?” That is up to you, your conscience, and some serious thought as to what honoring words to choose.
But I will leave those of you who need just a few samples, some of my thoughts: I prefer using the word accessible for parking spots, bathrooms, homes, businesses, etc. Wheelchair friendly or unfriendly is another expression.
One of my monikers is sit-down person in a stand-up world so referring to me as my friend who is a sit-down person, as I refer to myself, is a respectful description.
Some use physically (mentally, circumferentially, follically) challenged or differently-abled but now I’ve just gotten into clichés and they can be somewhat loathsome.
There you go. And thank you. Together, we can make the world a better place.
People Have Signed the Pledge!
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.
What Others are Saying...
"Nannette Oatley is a woman of remarkable courage and unusual spirit. She embraces life in a wheelchair with fierce determination, glorious humor, and unwavering faith. Nannette¹s heart flows over with honesty, compassion, and good news. It is difficult to leave her presentations without being genuinely renewed and grateful for the gift of life."
- Dr. Peggy Natiello, Ph.D. Human Development, International Consultant in the Person-Centered Approach
"Nannette is one of the most dynamic speakers I know. Her life¹s journey is one of inspiration and courage. Her story is of determination and character. Her ability to tell her experiences instills faith in the triumph of the soul. There is no way you can leave her presentation without renewed confidence in facing all life has to bring. Nannette is, in a word, awesome."
-Hazel Bowman, Women In Networking, Director
"Nannette was a keynote speaker at our Annual Civitan Convention. Her topic, resilience, was both interesting and a 'hit' with our audience. She is an energetic and compelling public speaker, and I would urge your organization to contact her for your next gathering."
- Ward Topping, President Frontier Civitan Club
"Nannette Oatley's presentation at our recent convention was both inspirational and entertaining. I would happily recommend her to any audience, anywhere, anytime."
- CEO, Jay Martin, NSA