Disability, a word with a disability
Jun 14, 2012 / 5:30 am
Shelly DeCoste says people get caught up on the 'dis' and don't think about the 'able', when it comes to words like disabled.
The Kelowna resident is determined to get people thinking differently when it comes to defining those with a disability.
"People call me disabled, but I'm able to do a lot of things. They may look awkward for me to do, or I may need different things to help me achieve my goals, but if you look what I can achieve then you see it's just that I am able to do things differently."
DeCoste, is a woman living with a disability, but that hasn't stopped her from becoming an inspirational speaker whose developed a new term to define those with disabilities. She calls it 'diversability'.
"People clue in a little bit more when I say diversability. People want to talk to others with diversability, to start a dialogue that would never take place in a typical situation."
She says she hates the word disabled, because it makes her think of a broken down truck not a person.
"If you listen to the morning news, or a traffic report, there are disabled trucks all over the place and in that context that means they are not working. I hold a job down, and I do a lot of volunteer work, so I am able."
The biggest challenge that set DeCoste on the path of changing the word disability to diversability, came when she encountered problems trying to apply for jobs.
"Can you imagine applying for a job and saying I'm disabled, but I want to work. They say, 'well how can you work if you're disabled?' So by saying I have a diversability and I want to work, it opens people's mind to think outside the box."
Darryl Harand is a big supporter of what DeCoste is trying to do, because he says it means it will place him and others, with what may traditionally been called disabilities, in a more positive light with employers.
"Hopefully people will think, diversability, hey we should talk to Darryl despite the canes, the bump and the bad eyesight. Or they won't understand what it means, but they will want to have a discussion about the word diversability."
Harand thinks the word diversability will allow employers to think past his 'disability' and more towards his drive to be successful.
Although DeCoste admits she is just learning about how to officially change the terms disabled and disability to diversability, she says she is talking to her MPs and MLAs to see what can be done.
"I've also been going to different organizations with presentations and talking to whoever will give me the chance to talk. I have been to the school board, CLBC, Community Living and different agencies like that."
The response to DeCoste's presentations has been optimistic, she says she has been told her words are powerful and that diversability will bring different opportunities to people for a different outlook on life.
Although the word diversability has been used to replace disability in places like Britain, DeCoste says it's time to get people talking about it in Canada.
"My goal is to have diversability the word of the year for 2013, but I don't know how to do that, so I am working on it."
DeCoste is currently building a diversability website, and working with others to spread the message about diversability.
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