Very Old, Very Healthy Diabetic

...or die trying.
I was diagnosed in 1998 at the age of 33 with NIDDM or Type 2 diabetes. I come from a diabetic clan. I even married a diabetic. Are you on the diabetes road, too?
This is my goal: to become a very old, very healthy diabetic by day to day choices regarding eating, exercise and medical management. Walk along with me...

Friday, August 18, 2006

People First Language

I'm okay with calling myself, and others, "a diabetic".

This is not the most correct language. More correct language is what they call people-first language.

Thus, one avoids calling a person using a wheelchair a quadriplegic. You can call him a lawyer, a baseball fan, a twin, a jerk, but don't call him a quadriplegic. One should, instead say, "he has quadriplegia" or "he uses a wheelchair".

I hate the shorthand "in a wheelchair". I'm not sure why I have such an emotional reaction to that one. It's as if the moment one's butt hits the seat, and one is "in a chair" that one ceases to matter, that you lose part of your essential humanity. I also think that I hate hearing "he's in a chair" as a stand-alone statement, as if that explains everything about it.

I ask, "So, can you tell me more about Mr. Johnson and his medical condition?"

Care center employee replies, "Well, he's in a chair."

Nothing about how long he's needed to use a wheelchair, whether it's a motorized or manual chair, about the medical conditions that have caused him to stop walking, whether he has a good prognosis for regaining his ability to ambulate, etc. So, I ask more questions.

Now, my co-worker, who does have quadriplegia and has been wheelchair dependent for 30 years, often says to callers "I'm in a chair." So I guess its not illegal language, if the person to whom one is referring uses it to refer to himself.

But then again, an iffy term, if used as a self-reference, may not be nearly as offensive as the same term used by a third party. So who's to say? It varies from case to case and person to person.

I understand the need for person-first language. And I do use it as much as I remember to. I deal with persons with disabilities every day, most often by phone, so I am often using my words to talk about disabilities and abilities and life in general. People-first language reminds us, that, whatever my diagnosis, whatever my background, whatever my employment, I am still a human being and deserving of the same respect which is due to any other child of god on the planet.

So I get the "PWD" term and people with diabetes phrasing. But I find it cumbersome, and may not remember to use it all the time.

I know that diabetes is not the only thing that defines you. I know that diabetics are voters, moms, dads, daughters, sons, uncles, artists, writers, movie fans, cooks, therapists, trumpeters, musicians, computer whizzes, comics, lovers, princesses, animal rescuers, and so on and so forth so that it would fill the world. It does fill the world. We make it a varied and interesting place. Life is good.

Please forgive me if I inadvertantly refer to you as a diabetic and you find it offensive.

I'd send you a chocolate chip cookie in apology, but then, that really would be passive-aggressive.

(Oh, and by the way, the term 'handicapped' is genuinely out. 'Disabled' is considered a more acceptable term than 'handicapped'. Handicapped is supposed to have been derived from the phrase 'cap in hand' as a shorthand for so disabled as to be unable to work and forced to beg for ones living. Many of us who have some level of disability are still able to work and be self-supporting, or partially self-supporting. Although I'd rather not tell you my own checkbook balance today.)


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