I am registered blind. Recently I was in a room with a group of other people with various disabilities when one of those present refered to people “suffering” from dyslexia. I let the use of the word “suffering” go unremarked, however when he continued to employ it during the course of the meeting I politely remarked that I considered it’s utilisation to be inappropriate, a view endorsed by several others present.
To suffer is to endure pain or discomfort. While some disabilities may entail suffering, for example a person who has broken their leg will suffer pain during the course of their temporary disability, many disabilities do not involve suffering. The fact that I, as a blind person can not see to read a newspaper is an inconvenience (I’d love to be able to buy a paper, sit on public transport and read my newspaper along with my fellow commuters, however my inability to read print does not entail suffering. I can go online and access the newspapers using access software which although not as convenient as being able to read a print paper is, none the less far better than not being able to access a newspaper at all.
Societal barriers rather than a disability in and of itself can cause people with disabilities to face inconveniences. For instance the lack of ramps affording access to buildings may make it difficult or impossible for wheelchair users to access them. Any inconvenience “suffered” is, in this case down to the lack of access rather than to the fact that the wheelchair user is unable to walk or, at any rate is only able to walk for very short distances before having to return to their wheelchair.
Not all issues surrounding disability are capable of being resolved by society making adjustments. I can not see paintings and however good my friends description of a picture is their descriptive powers will not furnish me with the capacity to appreciate visual art as a sighted person does. However, in my view I do not “suffer” through my inability to admire paintings. Granted I feel regret but that is not the same as “suffering”.
I am not arguing in favour of policing the English language. People should be able to express themselves freely unless their words are aimed at inciting racial or other hatred. However we all should consider whether our use of language is appropriate.
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