#SaytheWord: A disability culture commentary on the erasure of “disability”.

Purpose: To inform the field of rehabilitation psychology about the sociocultural implications of the term “disability,” and explain the rationale behind the #SaytheWord movement, a social media call to embrace disability identity. Method: Review of the literature on disability terminology, the history of language use, and the relationship between attitudes toward disability and language. We reflect on the role of disability within the field of psychology and within the American Psychological Association (APA), including the underrepresentation of disabled psychologists and trainees with disabilities and the lack of mentorship opportunities available in the field. Implications: The authors argue that erasure of the word “disability” can have unintended and adverse consequences. We describe how erasure of disability identity in the context of current sociopolitical efforts to reduce and eliminate public services and supports for people with disabilities is especially threatening to members of the disability community. To move forward, the authors postulate that the disability movement must reconcile its own history of exclusion and adopt a disability justice framework. Conclusion: The field of psychology has a rich tradition of appreciation of cultural diversity and individual difference; yet, disability has largely been left out of these efforts. The disability movement is moving toward the status of a diverse cultural group with a social justice agenda parallel to those of other marginalized communities. The authors posit that psychology must play a stronger role in advancing the human rights of people with disabilities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)