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disabled / disability

In a message dated 11/8/2007 8:08:33 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, lmtlssmnd@  writes:
Dr. Vicars:
I am giving an informative speech to my class this Sunday, November 11, 2007. It is going to be on a day in the life of a deaf person. It will be taken from a compilation of sources, including actual interviews. I know that deaf persons do not consider themselves disabled. I'd like to sign the phrase, "Don't call me disabled." I have been looking everywhere for the sign for disabled. So far, I've found "disability" on [another website] with first the letter d, then the letter a, being signed in a circle similar to that of "alone". Is this the same sign for disabled? Please help me, ASAP!
Thank you, for your time and willingness to help. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Rose Cotten
In my travels I'd have to say the most widely recognized sign for "disabled" is to fingerspell the letters "DA."
This is reminiscent of the sign for "handicapped" which is done by spelling the letters "HC."
Any special movement you might see for the spelling of "DA" is simply for emphasis to make it clearer.  That movement isn't like the sign "alone/single/someone/something" rather the movement is a small clockwise (by the signer, which appears counterclockwise to the viewer) circle or semicircular movement. That same movement is common in other abbreviations as well. For example, when spelling U.S. as in the "United States" you use the small clockwise movement.  Additionally, I wouldn't consider it wrong if the topic had been established and a person were signing quickly and didn't include the rotational movement.  I would simply consider that to be the "articulation" of the sign when done at high speed by a fluent signer as opposed to introducing the concept into the conversation, and/or emphasizing the concept for clarity.  Additionally I wouldn't consider the direction of the rotation as having any real bearing on the accuracy of the sign. For example if someone moved it "counter-clockwise" I wouldn't mark him or her down for it on a test. Nor would I mark him or her down if he or she used a single rotational movement and changed the "D" into an "A" partway through the rotational movement.
If signing a song, or doing platform interpreting for a large audience such abbreviations could have very large or exaggerated movements.

There are other signs for "disability." For example, you might see people initializing the sign "interrupt" with a "D."  I think of that "single movement" sign as meaning "disabling" or the verb form of "disable" as in "to disable."  If done twice, I would think of it as a noun form meaning "a disability."  I would accept either form (single or double) movement as an adjective depending on the rest of the sentence. Since the sign is based on the "interrupt" sign I encourage the use of this sign to refer to "disabling" conditions but I discourage the use of this sign to refer to "disabled" people. When referring to disabled people I stick with spelling "DA."

Versions of this sign that I do not encourage include signing "not," or "don't," or fingerspelling "DIS" followed by the sign "CAN/able."

Dr. V

American Sign Language University ASL resources by Dr. William Vicars
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