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"I'm Crippled, Not Disabled!"

Posted Dec 02 2009 12:00am
I have been surprised by some of the reaction to an essay of mine that appeared in the Sunday, November 29, 2009, issue of The New York Times .

The essay came out on the page at over 2500 words, and the Times keeps Modern Love essays to 1800 words. I worked with the column editor, and then the essay went through copy-editing. There the process came aground temporarily on a sandbar in the form of the word "crippled."

The New York Times does not use the word in relation to people's physical condition. I had used the word purposely, for the same reason I used words like "gimp" and "crip" in my memoir: to take possession of the person I am.

I recognize myself as being "crippled." I do mind being "disabled," which was the suggested substitute, because it seems to echo in its perception of limitation my father's constant admonition against using the word "can't."

I suppose my objection to "disabled" was somewhat hypocritical since I would rather term myself a "person with a disability" rather than be identified one of those ugly terms like "wheelchair bound" or "confined to a wheelchair."

On the other hand, I think the word "disabled" seems infinite, applying all the time in every circumstance, while " ... with a disability" suggests possibilities remain.

Neither the copy editor nor I got exactly the word we preferred. I suggested "paralyzed," and he agreed.

You can read the essay here.
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