How am I suppose to say it; Terminology and language about disability

One of the first steps to create an accessible cultural space is the language we use to reach disabled people who visit or plan to visit it. How can we adopt a human-centered language that is free of stereotypical perceptions that will contribute to the equal participation of all in cultural life?

On February 16 2019, an open debate on access to cultural life took place in Athens, at “O Choros“(Pl. Theater 6-8) designed and facilitated by Artemis Stamatelou, museologist, member of the Balkan Museum Access Group.

Approximately 40 professionals in the cultural sector, students of relevant fields, and representatives of disability organisations attended the debate.

Starting with the social model of disability, the key points of the discussion were:

  • We avoid any term referring to outmoded approaches of  disability, such as the medical and philanthropic models, as well as terms that express and reproduce stereotypes (such as the phrases of positive exaggeration).
  • We use words and expressions that express the idea that a person has a multidimensional personality and multiple identities.
  • The use of the right terminology is a matter of respect for human rights. The terms that are currently considered as proper are the result of the struggles of the disability movement internationally for the assertion of these rights.

The event was organized by Liminal – Access to Culture in collaboration with Acesso Cultura.

Artemis Stamatelou is a museologist based in Athens. Over the last 15 years, she has been working on designing, implementing and managing projects to improve accessibility and participation in cultural life. Since 2016, she is one of the members of the Balkan Museum Access Group of the Balkan Museum Network.


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