It’s a difficult subject, is it people with disabilities/disabled people or people with special needs? The reality is, there is no one-sided answer to this. Ask an American person, and you’re more than likely to receive the answer of disabilities. However, ask the same question to a Canadian, and you’re more than likely to receive the response of special needs. The same happens when comparing the British and Australian answers, with the British being more prone to use disabilities, and Australians being more prone to use special needs.
My reason for using special needs hasn’t got anything to do with where I live, but rather about what the word disability means. After all, the word “disability” factually means “lacking in ability”.
But that is actually beyond the point. As I could go into why the term disability is the worst of the 2, but that’s not even the point of why people oppose me using the term special needs. It’s not truly about the term, to begin with, at least not in the sense of either one being offensive.
The problem has far more to do with age. When we use the term “special needs”, we are generally speaking of children, as I did too in my Twitter bio where I use the term. After all, the reasons to define it for children have mostly to do with school and medical support. In the case of school, saying a child has special needs is not offensive, but the exact opposite, as it only really says they need different help than other children. However, when we do the same for adults, it is far more about work and medical support, with many employers being known for not employing people just for their mental health conditions. In the case of using disabilities, you would lay an overlap with those who have physical conditions, decreasing the stigma. After all, when we say disabilities, we think of physical conditions because of what the term factually means.
And that last sentence also names the most correct way of saying it, which is people with physical conditions and people with mental conditions. However, most people will instantly think of the exact problem why people don’t want to do this either, which is that just saying someone has mental health condition has an even greater stigma than using either special needs or disabilities. Mental conditions give the idea of people in psychiatric hospitals.
It is all factually really nonsensical, but this discussion about what to use isn’t really surprising while looking at our society. Just take autistic people and not being allowed to say “having autism”. Or the far more common example of LGBTQ+ people and the usage of they/them instead of the already existing and correct term of “it”. The reason why they see these words and usage as offensive has nothing to do with them actually being offensive, it has to do with people wanting them to be offensive.
Just take the example of “having autism”, people might want to realize that this is the correct way how it is said in every language that I know, with actually the whole “autistic people” not making sense at all, as basically every language uses “autists”. And the reason why it is not done in English? Simple, as people regard it as offensive… As, yeah, feel free to check the dictionary, autist is the correct terminology to use in the English language as well…
A lot of autistic people do the same as is done by those active on the subject of gender identities and pronouns, making problems that aren’t factually there. Let’s be clear here, it’s not like I don’t get called female at times as well, obviously by accident. Is it done to be offensive? Of course not. In this regard, it might be good for people native to the English language to realize that several languages don’t really use gendered pronouns. Besides, shouldn’t we be the ones who feel offended by the fact that we are already writing and speaking English for you and even that is not enough apparently?
Honestly, people care way and way too much about words that mean exactly the same. If you want to use disabilities and disabled, then go ahead. Same for using they/them, autistic people, or whatever other example you could give. But let me and everyone else use other words with the same meaning and no offensive nature. As while you may call me for being offensive for using these non-offensive words, the only one who is offensive is you, showing both a lack of respect and discrimination, the exact things you’re accusing others of…