Kelowna is taking a stand against slapping outdated labels on people with disabilities.
City politicians voted unanimously to remove the words “handicapped” and “disabled” from all municipal publications and signs, replacing them with the term “persons with disabilities.”
While the former descriptors may seem innocuous enough, city staffer Birte Decloux told city council they’re rooted in negative judgments which the accessibility advisory committee believes have seen their day.
“Although handicap is a common term in the sports world, it started in the 17th century, and (represented) someone with a cap in hand,” said Decloux, acting out a gesture associated with panhandling.
While Decloux’s use of “cap in hand” by definition is at odds with what’s been accepted into the etymology dictionary, all versions do indicate a shortcoming.
Explaining why the term disabled is inappropriate, Decloux said it’s an erroneous label and a stereotype because a person’s disability may affect only one aspect to his or her life.
Referring to wheelchair-bound athletes, she explained, “A person may feel extremely able, just unable to walk…Now the focus is on a positive attitude, not a historically negative term.”
For the most part people don’t like to be labelled, she explained, so it follows that community members with disabilities would prefer to be recognized for their individual abilities and contributions rather than broad generalizations.
Changes would bring the city in line with federal and provincial practices, as they’ve used the alternate terminology as the standard for their signage.
The cost to alter the wording, she added, would be minimal. Already city signage for parking and recreational facilities use the correct terminology.
Publications, forms and correspondence that aren’t up to snuff will be updated as they need to be replaced and the media relations department is working on a style guide.