free write on how many different types of disabilities i can think of

when i first came to disability studies, i tried to even articulate the word “disability” itself in a way that was fuckin deconstructionist and contextually specific.  it was hard work.  i mean, the actual word “disability” itself is like intrinsically negative.. you know, an insufficiency, a lack, a deformity.

dis- 1
1. indicating reversal: disconnect ; disembark
2. indicating negation, lack, or deprivation: dissimilar ; distrust ; disgrace

that’s from negation, lack, deprivation. negation, lack, deprivation.

then you have cheesy 1980s activist terminology like TABs (temporarily able-bodied) but that’s for nondisabled people, not disabled people.  so i was like, well how do i say “disability” in a fuckin rad feminist deconstructionist way?

turns out it’s just PWDs (people with disabilities/person with a disability) for person-first language, or disabled person if it’s more in a reappropriative identity-based sense even when it’s not necessarily in an explicit political way.

THEN, once you decide on this larger category and how to say it, you have the heterogeneity of the term.  holy shit! so many different kinds of ways of saying types of disabilities.

some people say cognitive disability, intellectual disability, or developmental disability.  then there’s emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, and behavioral disabilities which may or may not crossover and feed off of the first three disabilities named.  it seems to me that learning disabilities can be within the category cognitive disability, or just a synonym for it, like an interchangeable term for whichever you decide to use specific to the moment in which you use it.  and then same thing for behavioral disabilities and developmental disability.  not to mention the autistic self-advocacy movement, where folks might use “autistic” as reclamation or they prefer saying “on the autistic spectrum” in another person-first kinda way.  the autistic self-advocacy movement has also come up with terms like “neurotypicals” or “neurodiversity.”

then there’s the different usages within and between psychiatric disability, psychosocial disability, psychiatric survivors, mad/crazy, and mentally ill.  this gets tricky.  take, for instance, psychiatric survivors.  this category comes out of the larger movement of folks fighting against coerced psychiatric hospitalization and incarceration, mostly during the 1970s and 80s i believe (remember this is a free write, bear with me).  then there’s mad/crazy, which i’d say comes out of a separate and potentially conflicting social movement that is in flux today.  the mad pride movement stems from a lot of student activism within the past decade, and is particularly strong in canada.  mad pride might assert the use of and healthcare access to psychiatric drugs whereas the psychiatric survivor movement might place a totalizing oppositional negation onto the drugs and reject their subsequent usage.

people are alright with psychiatric disability, that’s what i personally prefer.  i also like to use the term mentally ill. lemme tell you, when i am aching in my bones from depression, i just want to shout THAT I’M MENTALLY ILL DAMMIT SO FUCK OFF and i guess it kinda feels nice to articulate that claim with a deep bitterness towards society.

but some people don’t like either of those.  they might want some person-first language, like “she lives with depression” or “she has depression.”

now we have, physical disability.  physical disability is like the neoliberal supercrip form of disability, where people are constantly overcoming themselves in order to be valued by dominant nondisabled society in any sort of humanizing way.  there’s also an interesting cultural distinction between people who are congenitally disabled, or people who were suddenly disabled.  this heuristic adds to the complexity of what it might mean to theorize a crip/disabled subjectivity.  it is also an interesting distinction in terms of disability stereotypes and the medical model of disability, where “disability” is that intrinsically deficient type of term and if you’re born with a disability it somehow pathologically makes you more “deficient” than say if you were paralyzed in a car accident or macho bar fight.

then in addition to and alongside of disability, there’s illness–or, invisible disabilities.  like incurable conditions, chronic diseases, environmental injuries, arthritis, chronic pain, strokes, scarring, and so on.

hmm.. i’m starting to think that’s about the end of this list, for now.


One response

  1. This post is amazing! 🙂
    I’d add the word “fluctuating” to the bit about invisible illness/disabilities.
    shehasahtree, PhD student using crip theory in her thesis on fatigue

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