Persons with disabilities are first and foremost people, not conditions



Crippled — unable to walk or move

Physically challenged — no official definition (challenge; dare, provocation; physical, manual, labor-intensive; manually dared or provoked)

Handicapped — having a condition that markedly restricts one’s ability to function physically, mentally, or socially.

Disabled — having a physical or mental disability; unable to perform one or more natural activities (such as walking or seeing) because of illness or injury

Person — a being, such as a human, that has certain capacities or attributes constituting personhood   

Ability — possession of the means or skill to do something

Dis — can’t or won’t

I am A PERSON WITH A DISABILITY. As a leader in my community, I demand retractions of the articles written in the Star Tribune newspaper describing, abusing, and discriminating against persons with disabilities.

The paper reaches all corners of this state. The abusive language referring to and describing us was disgraceful, degrading, inhuman, immoral, and unethical. I have been called crippled, physically challenged, handicapped and disabled by others. Yet I have always been a person.

No one ever asked me who or what I wanted to be called or who I was. The persons deciding the name or condition applied to persons with disabilities should be but clearly were not persons with disabilities and had no one in their sphere of friends and associates who was a person with a disability or disabilities.

Language is a powerful tool, and the Star Tribune uses words in a powerful way. The Americans with Disabilities Act was established decades ago. Minnesota celebrated 25 years of the ADA this year. Whenever writers place items in the Star Tribune about people with disabilities, please use persons with disabilities when referring to or describing us.

Continued use of the terms above deny us our civil and human rights. It allows people to ignore our humanity because we are “conditions.” Conditions are whatever someone decides. Conditions have no civil or human rights.

Conditions can’t be educated, can’t be sexually active or physically attractive. Conditions can be ignored because they have no money, no vote, and no voice. Some people believe persons with disabilities can be interchanged with disabled and the statement holds the same meaning.

Believe me, as a 56-year survivor of a serious childhood accident that should have taken my life, no one has the right to refer to me as a condition (disabled, handicapped, physically challenged, crippled). I am a human being, as are all other persons with disabilities, who has every God-given right, civil right, and human right to be treated fairly and equitably. To be given my respect, honor, faith, and trust as a human being on this planet.

All words and terms used to describe persons with disabilities as conditions should be stricken from the English language. This includes special needs, Special Olympics, retarded, handicapped (including the blue signs in the parking lots and labels on parking meter poles), crippled up, and other terms I would never use. It does not take much imagination to change the condition words used to people words.

Give us our humanity. Respect our rights. Stop the mistreatment and labeling of us. All of you would not be pleased if we referred to you as some condition or inanimate object.

I am willing and able to speak with any and all of you, your peers, friends, politicians, lawmakers, etc., to put you on the right path to recognizing our humanity whenever we are thought of. Continued use of condition language makes us invisible, and we would remain inhuman.

Please consider the harm you have caused. Think about the cultures and persons other than White and how the words apply to them. Can someone define “special needs child”? Please inform me: What is special about Special Olympics outside of creating two classes of people?

Stop the madness and inhumanity.


Kenneth Brown is a disability advocate/consultant, speaker/educator and business owner. He welcomes and invites reader responses to or 612-518-2155.