Background: Despite its acceptability, the term disability has not been able to shirk the sense of incompleteness, lack, deprivation and incapacitation embodied in the prefix ‘dis-’. The current wave of anti-discrimination on disability issues, calls for constant re-examination of the language and the appellations we use in respect of people with disabilities.
Objectives: The aim of this study is to subject the term disability to some relevancy litmus test with a view to prevent it from acquiring Lyotard’s ‘grand narrative’ and to propose and argue for the term ‘differently abled’ because of its transformative and anti-discriminatory slant.
Method: The study took the form of a literature review using the optic of Derrida’s hierarchy of binaries and the Sesotho proverb, ‘Bitso-lebe-ke seromo’, (A bad name is ominous) to explore the connotations of the term disability as a disenfranchising social construct.
Results: Read through the lens of Derrida’s idea of difference, disability as a concept has no inherent meaning and its meaning derives from its being differentiated from other concepts. Viewed through the lens of Bitso-lebe-ke seromo and read in the context of its deep symbolical significance, the term disability holds immense spiritual power.
Conclusion: The study concludes that the term disability or disabled is exclusionary, stigmatizing, and anti-transformational. As such it embodies imperfection, incapacitation and inferiority. Not only is it ominous, it places upon people with disability the perpetual mark of unattractiveness. Against this background the term differently abled seems to convey more empowering overtones than the term disability.
African Journal of Disability, Vol 9, 2020