The Power of Language

One of the areas in which Social Role Valorization sharpens our eyes is noticing the power that language has to convey negative or positive messages about people. Dr. Raheemuddhin Pk, psychologist and leader at CDMRP within the University of Calicut, attended a four-day intensive SRV workshop and immediately realized that in the many training courses he teaches to professionals, the language was highly medical in nature. He knew the use of such terms might further cause people with disability to be seen as clinical objects, as problems to be treated, and as research subjects rather than full citizens, full human beings, and people who actually represent the breadth of diversity of the human condition. He realized that he could take a first step in implementing aspects of SRV by paying close attention to language and use terms that further citizenship and humanity rather than pathology.

We know that changing language may not be the only answer to changing mindsets and attitudes that hurt and harm not only wounded people with disability but all of us. We do know it’s not a bad start. Tomorrow’s professionals, students, and protégés of Dr. Raheemuddhin will benefit from his efforts to use a language of respect about and toward people with disability.