Saying the ‘F word … in the nicest possible way’: augmentative communication and discourses of disability
AbstractThis paper examines a case study of a severely physically disabled man, Ralph, in terms of his interaction with his carers. He communicates using various systems of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC, such as symbol boards and high-tech devices), the vocabulary for which has mostly been selected for him by others. The starting point of the paper is the assumption that disabled people have traditionally held a disempowered position in society (relative to non-disabled people), and the question asked is to what extent is Ralph further disempowered by the limited vocabulary available to him in his AAC systems, and in the way others interact with him. The paper draws on the work of Bourdieu, according to whom ‘Language is not only an instrument of communication or even of knowledge, but also an instrument of power’ (1977, 648). I consider the tensions between the drive towards the empowerment of disabled individuals, as exemplified by the provision of AAC, and opposition to allowing access to certain types of vocabulary (especially expletives such as ‘the F word’), unless it is expressed in ‘the nicest possible way’.
CitationSaying the ‘F word … in the nicest possible way’: augmentative communication and discourses of disability 2013, 28 (1):125 Disability & Society
JournalDisability & Society