A close up image of Georgia- hair straight just below shoulders I have my glasses on and a white top.
Disability Rights

Using Online Communities to Collectively Analyse Disability Language in Practice

A few months ago I wrote a piece about Analysing Occupational Therapy Practice With a ‘Disabled Persons’ Eye which was quite a raw reflective piece but this only scratched the surface. Therefore, I wanted to make a series out of this about challenging practice. It was also originally Margaret’s idea to do a part 2 when she first read the post, so I can’t take full credit but from the conversations I have been having through online communities (I got my favourite phrase in again- happy dance) more posts on challenging practice are certainly needed.

Yet, seen as it was the launch of AbleOTUK on Tuesday night and it is still Disability Pride Month as I’m putting this post out I thought I’d unpick disability language within practice a bit more, to begin with as that’s one I know a thing or two about.

So, why do the conversations about disability language need to happen within occupational therapy practice daily?

“Language/terms can harm, disempower or oppress if done to or spoken without consideration. We should always ask the person about their preferred identity term & use that. Your words always make me take a pause, revisit the topic & check in with myself.”

Musharrat Ahmed-Landeryou, @LectureMish 

I agree and I have had many conversations since sharing this post back in April about how powerful disability identity is and how important it is to get it right. A big conversation was around how disability language may vary in those that have acquired disabilities in comparison to those who were born with a disability which then lead to a big conversation about internalised ableism. It was a really great discussion actually and many people got involved in the comments or messaged me privately so thank you very much everyone. Obviously as a disabled person I find this discussion interesting and can understand why many do.

But we don’t need to know why someone identifies the way they do in any walk of life not just in practice and therefore we need to realise that people identify differently and this is okay.

Conversations are great and don’t get me wrong I’m up for a waffling blog anyway of the week, but these conversations must now turn into ACTIONS within practice. It’s not okay to just be listened to, we need to be understood and something needs to be done about it. I’ve written countless posts on disability terminology and language and whilst this is raising awareness and striving towards change, change is here and actions should be made.

But why now?

“I am a disabled person (never felt more so than during this pandemic and being referred to as clinically vulnerable). I believe that my practice has been enhanced by having first hand experience of good, bad and mediocre healthcare and I reflect on this and what could be changed.”

Karen Scorer, @KarenScorerOT 

Karen is absolutely right, the pandemic has further highlighted health inequalities and now that this divide has yet again got bigger enough is enough. We need to create waves and use our first-hand experiences to do so.

As I transition into a Newly Qualified Occupational Therapist I have to become more political and I have to ensure that care and courage are maintained to enhance future practice. This means that what was once difficult posts have to become the norm and I must capture these conversations and turn them into actions through my blog, striving towards diversity and reduce health inequalities and discrimination.

I now have more of an idea of what Not So Terrible Palsy is going to look like in the future and as well as doing my CP content I want to use this platform to raise awareness of issues around occupational injustice within the occupational therapy community to work with AbleOTUK and collectively with other affinity groups (BAMEOTUK and LGBTQIA+OTUK) to challenge the status quo.

So, watch this space and check out our collective affinity group website for more content like this soon.

I hope I haven’t articulated this in the wrong way as I’m still figuring this out, but what better to start as I blogger than getting this all down on paper?

Thank you for reading,

Georgia x

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