By Shelley Decoste
I am leading a campaign to change the word “disability” to “diversability”. The reason behind changing the name is to make a positive twist on a word that can have negative implications. The word “disabilities” is associated with the past and people’s negative experiences with institutions. I am looking to change the word to “diversabilities” because these institutions are now closed and I want to focus instead on the abilities of people now and in the future. People with diversabilities do not want to be a burden to society, but instead want to be contributors and participants in society.
I hated growing up being labeled as a disabled person. I couldn’t figure out why people were labeling me because there were so many things I could do. I started hearing the word diversity in other places and conversations and when I looked it up in the dictionary the definition seemed like a much more logical explanation to describe what people who have been labeled can do. It seems that everybody gets hung up on the “dis” part of the word and I want to change it to be more positive. Imagine when someone like me goes and applies for a job. If I said I had a “diversability” instead of a “disability”, maybe it would be easier for the employer to think about accommodations. If you look at other groups who have advocated for changing language that isn’t respectful, they are now seen in a more positive way.
I have been using the word for about 10 years now. For a little while it was weird because I always had to explain it. But when I stop and tell people why I use the word “diversability” they start to think about how they talk and most of the time they say, “Of course! That makes sense.” It gets everybody thinking differently. It’s so cool when I say “diversability” in a room and within minutes it’s going around and makes it back to me. That’s what I imagine can happen across the province and maybe even the country if we all work together.
I have begun work as an Inspirational Speaker, presenting at various committee meetings, conferences and gatherings on “Diversability” across the Province. I am committed to making this a Self-Advocate-led campaign welcoming as many allies and supporters as possible. Please contact me if you’d like to help sponsor promotional materials or if you’d like me to make a presentation in your community.
I strongly believe that the adoption of this word will give back the power to all people with diversabilities. I am hoping to make this into an ongoing campaign, with my ultimate goal being that “diversability” will become the Word of the Year in 2013.
You can learn more at www.diversability.ca. The site includes videos and helpful resources.
To contact Shelley, please call 250-712-1179 or e-mail email@example.com.
For assistance in connecting with Shelley about how you can help with the Diversability campaign, you can also e-mail CLBC’s Self-Advocate Advisor at Jessica.Humphrey@gov.bc.ca or call 778-679-2691.