Democrats Abroad Global Seniors and Disability Caucuses invite you to join us for our monthly Social -- a time for Seniors and members of the Disability Caucus to connect with one another and discuss topics of concern and information. We will reflect, discuss, plan, and strategize together from the comfort of our own homes and with no duties or assignments! This will be fun as we can discuss freely any topic we would like.
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|Vancouver CA||6:00 AM|
|Washington DC||9:00 AM|
|London UK||2:00 PM|
|Berlin DE||3:00 PM|
|Nairobi KE||4:00 PM|
|Beijing CN||9:00 PM|
|Tokyo JP||10:00 PM|
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Respect, awareness and good will can make a world of difference when speaking to someone with a disability or with a disability different from our own. Even the most “woke” person gets tripped up occasionally: Do I say dwarf or little person? Hearing impaired, hard-of-hearing, or “person with a hearing disability”? If a person with cerebral palsy welcomes the term “crip,” does this apply to most people with a motor disability? Should I use person-first language or disability-first language? (For more on this difference, see below.)
The times and language are changing rapidly, as are the ways people with disabilities are choosing to identify themselves. Disability represents a form of diversity – similar to gender, race, religion, ethnicity and social class – and requires the same sensitivity when it comes to the way we address and refer to one another.
Below is a quick guide (adapted from paraquad.org) for respectful, mindful disability language. These suggestions aren’t meant to make anyone feel policed, self-conscious or shamed. Educate yourself on current, accepted terms. Still unsure how to address or refer to someone with a disability? Don’t guess! Ask the person directly, remembering most of us would still rather be referred to by our name than a label.
Words to avoid:
Cripple, handicapped, invalid, victim, afflicted with, confined to a wheelchair, normal (when referring to a non-disabled person), deaf-mute, birth defect, crazy/insane/mental patient, slow, mentally retarded, underachiever, deformed, handicapable, differently abled, disfigured, abnormal, palsied, spastic, physically challenged, manic, maimed, incapacitated, high-functioning/low-functioning, “special” and special needs.
Words to use:
Person with a disability, disabled, uses a wheelchair, non-disabled or able-bodied, deaf, hard of hearing, psychiatric history, emotional disorder, consumer of mental health services, epilepsy/seizures, learning disability, ADD/ADHD, developmental disability, cognitive disability, born with.
Many of the “words to avoid” are obvious. But language is not only ever-changing, it possesses layers of meaning, history and nuance. Inherent in words like invalid or victim is the belief that disabled people are “less than” able-bodied people. Ableism itself isn’t a new phenomenon, of course, though the term itself might be for some. And it has a way of slipping into our everyday language. We call people “crazy.” We say someone made a “dumb” choice or a “lame” excuse.
Andrew Pulrang, who writes a regular column for Forbes magazine on disability practices, policy, politics and culture, (link below), explains that “the harm of terms and uses like this is indirect, but no less real. They all reinforce the idea that a good way to describe bad things is to compare them to disabilities, or to disabled people.”
The good news, according to Pulrang, however, is that ableist language is also “unnecessary,” given a reasonable amount of awareness, creativity and, above all, care.
To learn more about respectful disability language, please check out these sources:
“It’s Time to Stop Even Casually Misusing Disability Words,” Andrew Pulrang in Forbes:
“The harmful ableist language you unknowingly use” – BBC’s Equality Matters
“Respectful Disability Language: Here’s What’s Up!” – NYLN (National Youth Leadership Network)
“Choosing Words for Talking About Disability” – American Psychological Association
“Disability Language Style Guide’ - National Center on Disability and Journalism
“Disability-Inclusive-Language-Guidelines” - Prepared by the United Nations Office at Geneva as part of efforts to implement the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, launched in 2019.
WHAT COMES FIRST: The choice is personal and both are appropriate
Person-first language places the “person” before the “disability” and is intended to emphasize personhood over impairment. Person with a disability …
Disability-first language (or identity-first language) places “disabled” before the person, emphasizing that disability is an important part of one's identity. Disabled person …
Allyssa Schoenemann (she/her) has been a DA member since October of 2020 (a month after arriving in Germany). She currently resides in the northwest part of Germany and works as an English teacher in a German public school for grades 5 to 10. She has spent time in Germany previously, receiving a Fulbright award in 2015 to work as an English language assistant at a German Gymnasium. At that time, she was not a DA member. Prior to moving abroad, she received her teaching certification for English Language Arts, Students with Disabilities, and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at the secondary school level. She has worked in various schools on Long Island in New York as a teacher assistant, substitute teacher or full-time teacher. After receiving her Masters degree, she pursued an additional certification in Disability Studies from Stony Brook University. Her goal has always been to educate, whether that be in the classroom teaching language skills or providing new knowledge about disability rights and methods of advocacy.
Kenneth Sherman of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada has served Democrats Abroad in many capacities over twenty years including the office of International Chair and Vice-Chair. He is one of its representatives now to the Democratic National Committee governing body. He authored the resolution that has established July 17 as John R. Lewis Voting Rights Day. Ken votes absentee in Buffalo, New York.
Heather Stone is a member of DA-Israel. She became a licensed attorney in NJ in 1988 and practiced municipal bond law in NJ from 1988-1990.She moved to Israel for academic work, in Urban Planning, passed the Israeli Bar in 1993 and practiced law with a few of the largest law firms in Israel in the high-tech sector - doing investments, international mergers & acquisitions, and internal investigations of publicly traded companies for over 20 years. In 2017 she became visually impaired following brain surgery. She volunteers for Democrats Abroad, currently as Deputy International Counsel (Global) and serves on the boards of a few non-profit organizations in Israel, and was the past chair of Democrats Abroad-Israel. Heather is a mom of two grown teens, and two dogs, including one guide dog and one emotional support dog. She continues to learn to navigate the world differently.
Elizabeth Blackbourn is the Chair of Democrats Abroad China and GDC Communications Coordinator. She hails from small town Wisconsin and currently resides in mega city China. She has learned no matter the size of an area in which a person lives, opening up about disabilities is difficult and connecting with others is key. Elizabeth hopes to help expand awareness and develop a means of support within Democrats Abroad for those with invisible diseases and physical ailments. Using her own journey with autoimmune diseases and injury, Elizabeth aims for the GDC to become a resource for those struggling to cope. Fostering a community that cares by increasing inclusivity and expanding communications is essential to the mental well-being of Americans abroad. Contact Elizabeth to share your story, work on public policy, and assist the Global Disability Caucus communications efforts.
Denise Roig has been an active member of Democrats Abroad since 2019. A published writer of fiction and non-fiction, she votes in California and has lived in Canada for over 30 years (twenty in Montreal and ten in Hamilton, Ontario). She's been a DPCA rep, headed up the GOTV postcard campaign for DA Canada in the 2020 election and is a writer for multiple projects through DA's Global Design Team. Denise is a founding member of the Global Disability Caucus and a member of its steering committee.Through her daughter, Georgia -- born with cerebral palsy -- Denise has become an ally to, and an advocate for, the disabled community. Georgia, now 26, has three college diplomas in helping professions and is currently working on a degree in Disability Studies, an emerging field that is political and justice-based. Allyship, Denise's special focus, also challenges the ways we think about disability so we can be mindful, informed advocates.
Mike Nitz is the Vice Chair of DA Vietnam, Chair of the DA Veterans Military Families Caucus and GDC Legislation Coordinator. He joined the Navy in 2011 as a shipboard nuclear power plant technician. In 2013, he was admitted to the United States Naval Academy where he studied comparative politics, Arabic, and the history of US-Iranian diplomatic relations. In 2015, he left the Naval Academy to return to active enlisted service in the field of underwater minefield detection and neutralization (not to be confused with explosive ordnance disposal) and served onboard a Minesweeper in Sasebo, Japan from 2016 - 2018. His health deteriorated while stationed in Japan, however, and he was ultimately medically retired from active service in January 2020. He now spends most of his time advocating for improvements to the systems that serve service members and veterans, advocating for disability rights and changes to the civilian disability system, and studying trends in election data throughout the United States.
Marnie Delaney has lived in France since the end of 2018. She spent her working years in marketing/advertising with Ad Agencies In New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco and ran Advertising & Marketing Communications for Bank of America. As a second career she founded an art studio and shop for children and taught art classes as wel
Marnie has been politically involved since the 1960’s with a particular interest in women’s rights issues. She spent many years involved with the National Organization for Women in Los Angeles, including a term as President which coincided with the nomination of Geraldine Ferraro as Walter Mondale’s VP running mate. She also spent time on the road working on the Equal Rights Amendment campaign and time consulting for political candidates and start-up companies.
Since joining Democrats Abroad, Marnie has served on the GWC steering committee and launched the Violence Against Women Action Team. Currently she is the Marseille Chapter Secretary, on the Senior Caucus-in-formation team and the Medicare Portability Task Force and Chair of the Global Disability Caucus.
As a large and quite matrixed organization we have a variety of challenges but also phenomenal opportunities. This work gives me purpose and I know that is a feeling shared by many of us. One of the best things about being part of the Democrats Abroad community is getting to know, work with and learn from such an enormous assortment of smart, dedicated, and highly motivated activists. It is like a new gift every day.
July 26th marked two important occasions: the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act – the foundational legislation recognizing the rights and needs of those with disabilities – and the first official meeting of the Democrats Abroad Global Disability Caucus (in formation).
The five speakers on the Zoom panel represented not just a geographic mix, with members from all three DA regions, but diverse experiences of disability. Introduced by the caucus’s acting chair, Marnie Delaney of DA France, panellists included Mike Nitz, a Navy vet and vice chair of DA Vietnam; Heather Stone, an attorney and member of DA Israel; Max Macleod and Denise Roig, members of DA Canada; and Somer Matthews, a doctoral student in special education.
The stories shared were compelling, moving and deeply personal, from struggles with mental health to physical accessibility to discrimination in the work force. Some are members of a community that now numbers one billion worldwide; others are allies and advocates. We all share one goal, one hope: that our voices will continue to be heard. And that as members of DA’s newest caucus, we can be a source of information and support, a conduit for action. As Mike said, “Being open about my disability is not hurtful or shameful. It’s authentic and it’s empowering. Not just for me, but for the disability community as a whole.” Click here to view the July 26th event if you missed it.
While the event celebrated 31 years of the ADA’s passing, the rights of those with disabilities are hardly guaranteed. There is nothing “done” about the gains forged in that early legislation. Almost from the moment the ADA was passed, other bills – mostly written by Republicans – have been put forth to diminish these gains. In fact, two bills are currently under discussion that will undercut parts of the ADA.
What can you do? Join us. We are committed to forming the most diverse caucus possible, with many interests, skills and concerns represented. To learn more, click here.
Second, watch the powerful documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, the first project from Higher Ground, the production company of former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. It’s available on Netflix and youtube. The film tells the story of the young activists who were the heart and engine of the disabilities movement in the 70s and 80s. Marching (or rolling – many were in wheelchairs), staging sit-ins, demonstrating, refusing to go away, they left us a legacy of making good trouble, as the late John Lewis called it. We have to be those activists now.