‘Insensitive language’ detracts from article on discrimination

Disabilities Car
An undated photo of a vehicle with an “81” prefix. (Photo: JNews)
AMMAN — An article published by Al-Ghad News sparked controversy and triggered unpleasant feelings for some persons with disabilities like Ezzat Dablan. The purpose of the article was to highlight a form of discrimination faced by people with disabilities in Jordan: The issuance of license plate numbers with the prefix “81”. Some, however, considered the language in the article discriminatory.اضافة اعلان

The journalist, Ahmad Al-Tamimi, wrote an article that used controversial terms when comparing persons with disabilities and their peers, people without disabilities, with the words “undamaged”, “sound”, or “intact”.

These are the words that triggered Dablan, a 37-year-old content creator with a following of 16,400 followers on Instagram alone; he is also a marketing graduate and the owner of an online shop. Dablan is known for his human content on social media under “Ezzat_Experince”; he has a rare genetic disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta.

"What triggered me in the article is when someone starts their article with: ‘A person is upset with the 81 prefix on the car plates because it causes his undamaged or intact peers to pity him.’Who told the writer that persons with disabilities are damaged? Who said that the undamaged or intact person doesn't have a disability? Take me as an example: I am in a wheelchair, but, I am very fit, I work out, I carry heavy weights — 120kg on my chest — and I have a family and a job. The language was triggering because a journalist used it; he could've used the term ‘people with no disabilities’. But this language ... reinforces the common negative stereotype," Dablan told Jordan News. 

Even though the article did follow journalistic guidelines and was fair in terms of the number of perspectives included, the journalist used the common popular language to reach the readers.

"This is the language commonly used to describe people with disabilities in comparison to the healthy, undamaged individuals," Tamimi told Jordan News.

"Yes, there was discrimination because of the (license plate prefixes) that I was covering. However, the article wasn't an opinion piece, and it was balanced interviews between people who were with and against the prefixes — the professionals called to eliminate the use of the prefix," Tamimi added.
Dablan believes in the value of the article and eliminating the 81 prefixes., but asks that people be aware of the language used to address persons with disabilities. "Persons with disabilities is the official terminology to describe our states, even though I hate it,” Dablan said.

When asked whether he had researched using politically correct language for his article, Tamimi said that the word “intact” is “commonly used”.

“The article was for their (persons with disabilities’) benefit and to get rid of the 81 prefixes,” Tamimi explained. “What kinds of words should've been used when making the comparison between people with disabilities and the healthy undamaged person? There are no other words for it."

“People might not understand if you used uncommon and unpopular terms,” the journalist added, stressing that his intentions were not to hurt anyone’s feelings or use derogatory language. He wanted to use commonly used terms “to speak directly to the people.”

“I will do better research when speaking in such matters in the future,” he concluded.

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