Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Special" stigma

Every once in a while, you expect a social change so long before it happens that you're eventually surprised to see it come to pass. A possible example is here. Wisconsin has a really active arts program for folks with disabilities, called, until just now, Very Special Arts Wisconsin. They've changed the name to "VSA arts Wisconsin", following the national lead, and "the letters now stand for Vision of an inclusive society, Strength of shared resources, and Access to the artistic expression that unites us all". (This explains the 'arts' tacked on.)

Martha Doherty, communications coordinator of VSA arts Wisconsin, wrote this, run under the headline "VSA arts name change removes 'special' stigma":
The continued use of the term "special" to define people with differing abilities perpetuates the myth that people with disabilities are somehow different from people without disabilities. All people are "special" in some way. Each one of us has traits that stand out, yet we can all agree that we don't want our perceived "weaknesses" to define us.
The way we talk about disability seems to have long passed beyond 'special', and the institutional change is a kind of lagging recognition of that. But is "Special Olympics" so established that it'll say on indefinitely?

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