The Language of Disability

The Language of Disability

I’m thrilled (and honored) that links to my blog have been shared and people I haven’t (yet) met in person are following. Perhaps now is an appropriate point to share a few words about the blog title. I am often described as sensitive, occasionally as stubborn, and perhaps never as sassy. And calling myself Gimpy Girl sounds, well, a bit sassy.

Last September I actually registered two website names. I began with Honoring The Graces (, that sounds so much like a name I would choose. Yet after sitting with that a while, I went back a registered this second site, Gimpy Girl Goes Birding. It sounded bolder. It clearly conveyed what I was about to do during this birding ‘big year’. And in many ways, it marked a transition for me. Even though I had lived a long time with one foot in the able-bodied world and the other foot in the disabled world, it still felt all too sudden when I found I was out of options to seamlessly fit into our mostly nondisabled world. For example, sheer determination and concentration were no longer enough to step up even the lowest step or curb without a railing. And getting up from ground level without assistance (whether the trip down was planned or unplanned 😉 ) was no longer possible.

Although this transition brought sadness and frustration, it eventually led to some sense of relief (then even later to determination and adventure). I could let go of trying with all my might to be something I’m not and never could be (a fully able-bodied person). This deeper level of acceptance led me to find new ways to move through this wonderful and often challenging world, reclaiming the energy previously expended attempting to keep up an able-bodied appearance and rediscovering sources of joy (such as a ‘hike’ through the mud!! 😀 )


I believe the language used to describe disability is deeply personal (since ability and limitation are profoundly unique and personal experiences for each of us, I believe we should each have the freedom to choose language that feels most comfortable to describe our own circumstances at any given point)… and at this point in my journey, in choosing Gimpy Girl to name my own experience and transition, I credit the influence of writer Nancy Mairs who rejected the terms ‘disabled’ and ‘handicapped’ and instead chose to describe herself as ‘crippled’ – not only because of the term’s starkness and precision but also for it’s honesty and because she wished to be viewed as “one tough customer, one to whom the fates/gods/viruses [had] not been kind, but who [faced] the brutal truth of … existence squarely” (Plaintext, p. 9-10). Therefore, I chose the words Gimpy Girl (for myself, never for others) with the hope that I might move forward boldly, honestly facing this experience of changing ability, and keeping a sense of humor throughout it all. 🙂

And now on to some exciting bird discoveries…

As each birder begins a ‘big year’ he or she likely has a bird or two they most hope to see during the year – often a rare bird. My hope was more modest – not a rare species, yet one I had never seen (which would make it a ‘life’ bird) and a woodpecker found in the mid-Atlantic that I’ve never spotted on our property. The Red-headed Woodpecker. On Memorial Day, two new friends from the Frederick Bird Club set out with me with the hope of spotting one of these breathtakingly beautiful birds. And we were successful! Bird #145 of 2017.


On that same outing we spotted a Bobolink


A Grasshopper Sparrow



As well as a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (another one you’ll need to look up, as I didn’t have my camera close by at the time).

I’ve also been seeing lots of beautiful Great Crested Flycatchers – seen here preening at the end of the day.



With gratitude and blessings,

Deb xoxo

8 thoughts on “The Language of Disability

  1. with a lump in my throat, and a swelling heart, i read your beautiful, honest exposition above. i LOVE that you chose the language that feels right for you. love the courage to claim your own. love that through writing you could try on a voice that’s not most typically yours — sassy girl. we all have iterations of self tucked inside, and the whole spectrum is beautiful and makes us who we are. i have found it a blessing to go birding alongside you — even if only through a screen, with your magnificent images. your voice, true voice, rings through every post. and i’ve had a sense from the start that you are tender with a dash of sass. and magnificently determined to not be stopped. thank you for trusting us with your truth…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness, thank you so much Barbara. This means so much. I’ve been sitting with your beautiful and honest words these last few days about our one precious earth. You always seem to share the most perfect words…


  2. Deb, this is so honest, touching and beautiful. Your photos are gorgeous and your writing is captivating. With tears in my eyes I tell you that many of us are perhaps not physically disabled but disabled none the less. The world we now live in is choking and seeing your photos and reading your blog clears away some if the fog that we seem to trudge through in our daily lives. Thank you so much for so openly sharing and making me realize struggles are what you make them. With love….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness Judy, thank you for your kind words and heartfelt response. I agree completely — we all have our wounds and difficulties, whether visible to the world or not. I find those experiences can often lead to empathy and connection with others. I’m so glad to reconnect with you again. Much love to you…


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