Disability, Differently Abled or Abilities?

New DH contributor, Brad Miller, from Canada, is a freelance journalist and blogger who lives with a disability called Becker Muscular Dystrophy. Brad runs a blog called My Beckers Story and kindly shares this article with us.

When it comes to running a blog where you address issues that affect those of us living with physical disabilities I am always surprised to find that some people are actually offended by the use of the word “Disability”. Many people suggest that it might be better to stop using the word all together and that we should instead use the words “Differently abled”. Others aim to just use the word “Abilities” instead of “disability” since they only want us to focus on what person’s capabilities are. Some even believe that it is better to ignore the negative parts of living with a disability but can we really tell our stories without including our struggles? Is the word “disability” really something so negative?

In some societies, and yes in some people’s eyes, having a disability is viewed as a negative… but the truth is we are just like anyone else we just do things a little bit differently. Could you say we are “differently abled”? Sure why not? Throughout the years I have never been offended by other people living with disabilities who use words like “differently abled” or “abilities” when it comes to talking about those of us living with some type of physical limitation. That is why I hope no one is offended when I use the word “disability” in a few of the posts you find on the My Becker’s Story blog.

The truth about those of us living with disabilities is that we have a lot of good things going on in our lives and many of us are very happy people and even though we may have certain limitations we are just like everyone else. We all do the same things: we go to the movies, hang out with friends, go to the mall, restaurants, churches and even attend college and university. Many of us choose not to allow our conditions to hold us back from accomplishing anything and a lot of us go on to live successful lives. That is why I believe the word “disability” actually represents strength. To me the word “disability” makes me want to strive harder and just like anyone else I too want to be successful in life and maybe I can’t do it physically, but mentally I am as strong as the next person. And like they say; “You can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it” and it doesn’t surprise me that many people living with physical disabilities are amazingly smart people who go on to become anything they want to in life.

I am sure you could ask anyone with a disability who has become successful and they will tell you the word “disability” doesn’t have to represent a negative. They would also tell you: “Life is what you make it”. That means, no matter what, you still have the ability to achieve your dreams. Sure, you might have to go about it in a different way, but in the end you will get there. So, whatever word you want to use to describe your situation, whether it’s “disability”, “differently-abled” or even if you want to only focus on using the word “abilities”, that’s ok with me I will never be offended. In the end the truth is the word “disability” doesn’t always have to represent something negative.

By Brad Miller


  1. Great article Brad. I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy, use a motorized wheelchair and always refer to myself as “crippled”. I do this because words and definitions do not define me. Plus it gets other people’s attention when I refer to myself that way because they find it offensive. But if you look up the definition, it defines me just as much as the term “disability” or “handicapped” and even “differently abled”. So, the point I make with them is words are words and definitions are definitions. What speaks louder than any of them is my actions and attitude. Since I’m extremely determined and motivated, I have many people say I am more “able” than the majority of people who are physically fine.
    Because I have refused to be defined by a word, definition, stereotype, I have not only graduated from college, but was part of one of the most popular fraternities on campus, enjoyed a great career in management which has enabled me to get married, have kids, buy a home, travel, volunteer, share my faith, etc, etc, etc, etc. I can go on and on with the things I have accomplished. And if I listed them all out, no one would have a clue I was “crippled” unless I added that in there.
    My point in all this and what I think you are trying to get across Brad, is LIVE! Words and definitions are not what you are, so get out there and be what your heart tells you


  2. Thanks for this. I have always liked the term ‘differently abled,’ not because I find ‘disability’ to be offensive– I don’t– but that it brings to mind something quite specific in many people’s consciousness; usually use of a wheelchair, or blindness, or some form of major and visibly obvious incapacity.

    I’ve just done some reading online and found that many people think of “differently abled” as worthless PC-speak. Where it’s defined, its simply defined as disability.

  3. Great article! I have always been hesitant when using the word disability because I never want to insult anyone. As you say Brad, a label does not make the person.

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