I am often asked why I refer to myself as having a handicap as opposed to being disabled. This is my explanation.
According to the Webster’s Dictionary, the word disabled means “incapacitated by illness, injury, or wounds.” I don’t feel that “disabled” defines me because of the word incapacitated. When I hear the word “incapacitated,” it comes across as very finite, like I can’t do anything, or worse yet, it implies that I will never be able to do anything. It is very black and white. There is no middle ground. Either you are disabled or you are not. If you are labeled as disabled, you are put into a category and you are stuck there for the rest of your life.
I am not in my position because of an illness or a physical injury. I was born with no wounds. It was merely a lack of oxygen to the brain during birth. Given all these factors, in my mind, I am the furthest thing from being disabled. I just have some difficulty doing specific things. This leads me to the word, “handicap.”
I am a person living with a handicap. Some things simply come harder to me than others, like a golfer with a handicap. They may be very good at putting, but give up three strokes just getting off the tee. When you are handicapping a team sport like football, once again you are analyzing weaknesses as well as strengths. In these examples the word handicap has a positive side as well as a negative side. Unfortunately, when people hear the word handicap, they immediately think of the negative.
Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of handicap is, “disadvantage that makes achievement difficult.” I would much rather be in this category, but if you think about it, it really isn’t a category. Everybody has difficulty doing something. It is part of our make-up as people.
We are good at some things and not so good at others.
Consider this: If you work on the difficulties, you can get better at them. If not, at least you put effort into trying to get better. That, in itself, is an accomplishment. There is a sense of success under the umbrella term of being handicapped or having a handicap because you can work at it. You can take a break and come back to it. You are not locked into an overall definition of yourself when you use the word handicapped.
People always complain that handicap is not the politically correct term, but I ask you: What is politically correct about labeling someone in such a way that makes them feel separated from the community as a whole?