01 February 2011


I am really feeling very sorry for myself. The display on my nearly brand-new laptop went south on Saturday morning. Fortunately everything else still worked, so I could plug into an external monitor. Not easily portable, but better than nothing, especially since I didn't have anywhere I needed to go. Yesterday morning Robert the Computer Tech appeared at Bob's Books and Adult Day Care with a replacement display which was, alas, the wrong one. If the problem were a loose connection somewhere, we were hoping that just putting it back together would fix the problem. No joy. The right part should get here in a couple-three days. In the meantime I could use a dim, fuzzy, flickery old 15-inch CRT monitor that Scarecrow liberated from the file server here. This morning a different computer tech shows up, this time with the correct display. By the time he's finished, the display works, but the webcam doesn't. Of course, we didn't realize the webcam didn't work until after he left. After another seemingly interminable troubleshooting (duh?) session, they're sending another computer tech out tomorrow.

In addition to making me whiny, unpleasant, even downright cranky, this situation has me thinking about how much I rely on a great deal of human, mechanical, and electronic assistance to do pretty much anything. Does that make me an invalid?

Even though I can be, I admit, kind of fussy about words and this is something about which otherwise temperate people can get pretty darned touchy, I mostly don't much care about the word used to describe my current inability to do everything I used to do.

Some people refer to MS as a sickness, an illness, or a disease. I guess it is, but those feel wrong to me. I generally don't feel sick, or ill. And 'diseased' sounds so icky. But the words don't offend me.

A guy I met whose wife has MS was incensed that people would refer to her as 'handicapped', thinking it connoted begging, with cap in hand. Although I don't think that's the derivation of the term, I guess a lot of people share his view, and it's not the politically correct thing to say. I can't get that worked up about it, myself.

I've seen references to people who were 'differently-abled.' While I understand the desire to come up with a term that no one could possibly find offensive, this is just wrong. To me, it implies that these people acquired different abilities to compensate for the normal abilities they don't have. Maybe it's just me, but I sure didn't get any different abilities. Still, if you want to use 'differently-abled', knock yourself out.

At the other end of the PC spectrum, there's 'cripple' or 'crip.' I can refer to myself as being a crip, and frequently do. (When I started this blog I thought about calling it 'Tales from the Crip', but it's been done.) Fellow crips can use the term, in sardonic recognition of our shared predicament. It's ok for my family to call me a crip, because I know they mean it in the nicest possible way. At least I think they do. But it's kind of like the 'n' word; you can only use it if you belong to the club. You gotta draw the line somewhere. But depending on who's using it, I'm OK with crip.

You could talk about an 'impairment' or a 'disability'; either of those is fine with me. I realize that in addition to occupying different places on the spectrum of political correctness, and possibly causing different levels of offense in the population to whom they are applied, the words used to describe physical or cognitive limitations all have slightly different definitions, and different shades of meaning. Pick one that works for you.

The term 'invalid', however, gives me a little trouble. One definition, according to Merriam-Webster, is:
Noun: One who is sickly or disabled
Adjective: suffering from the disease or disability
of, relating to, or suited to one who is sick
OK, I get that. Aside from my previous reservation about being labeled sick, I can't really object to anything here. My problem is that when I hear the word 'invalid', what I hear is 'in-valid.' As in:
Adjective: not valid:
a: being without foundation or force in fact, truth, or law
b: logically inconsequent
Logically inconsequent? I don't think I'm ready to go quite that far. I may be disabled, but I need to think I'm still valid:
1: having legal efficacy or force; especially: executed with the proper legal authority and formalities
2a: well-grounded or justifiable: being at once relevant and meaningful
2b: logically correct
3: appropriate to the end in view: effective
And my favorite, although I admit I don't exactly see the relevance:
4: of a taxon: conforming to accepted principles of sound biological classification
There are lots of words one might use to summarize my particular combination of cans and can'ts, and really, I'm just not that touchy. I know that talking to somebody with a disability can be awkward, and most people mean well.

But invalid? In-valid? I'd rather not go there. Nope. Not me. Not yet.


  1. I am reminded of the movie As Good As It Gets where jack Nicholson delivers his killer line, "You make me want to be a better man". I find that I have to do a lot of writing, instruction manual, sale literature, presentations for banks and investors and reading your blog wants to make me be a better writer. Thanks

  2. Like you, I'm not too picky about the words people use to describe others who have various disabilities. I'll cop to not bother being politically correct a lot of the time. I think that usually it's just silly, as in, as you said, "differently abled." Hell Apollo Anton Ohno is differently abled, if you ask me. But my cheerful nature goes by the wayside when I am described as (an) invalid. Not acceptable.

  3. Agree!! I may not be a "normal" person, but I'm not "abnormal." Neither am I an "invaild!" Once I said to my sarcastic younger son that I was "handicapped," and in his oiliest voice he replied, "Why no you are not. You are handi-capable!" We laughed. I try to be PC when speaking about others, not so much for myself. I just try to roll with it...

  4. I think the real issue here (because it was with ME, and isn't everyone JUST LIKE DIANE?)is lack of computer --- man, my worst time ever! Brought Diane D

    I always liked handicapped (don't tell anyone) because it feels like golf. You just get a little help but you play the same game. (I know nothing about golf, but I THINK that's what it means.)

  5. Yeah, don't think I'd care for the invalid term. Kind of dated too don't you think? No strong opinions/preferences though on the others. Maybe after I've journeyed on this road longer, I will.

    Oh, and I'm still in awe of your set-up at Bob's. Quite amazing.

    The bean-brained part-time cripple girl

  6. ok my friends and I are not so PC anymore and call each other in good fun of course just about anything that comes to mind.

    Handicapped is a great catch all anymore. Folks with a recent knee replacement are handicapped.

    Invalid seems rather dark ages to me.

    I get called drunk a lot . ...

  7. Oh, and the wonderful essayist Nancy Mairs prefers the word CRIPPLE. Her essay explaining why is in her book Plaintext.

  8. There are cool terms like universal design when it comes to places, but what about people? I think it's time to invent a new word...and let's keep it to one syllable please so it's easy to say. I find it ironic that a condition with speech issues has a name with 6 syllables and is difficult to say!