There’s no “PC” in Christmas

The other day, while writing a piece on the interaction between people with disabilities and the built environment, I ran straight into a wall of political correctness. What’s the right way to refer to people who can’t walk, see, hear, understand or otherwise function in the same way as the majority of the population? And, in the context of the article, what’s the best way to refer to people who struggle to negotiate kerbs, corners, ramps and bathrooms?

As always, the internet provides a wealth of completely contradictory advice and opinion. It’s a minefield!

“Don’t say disabled,” say some websites.

“I prefer being called disabled,” says one man from his wheelchair.

“Refer to people without disabilities, rather than saying able-bodied.”

“Don’t say wheelchair-bound. The Deaf should be capitalised. Avoid ‘the blind’; ‘the hard of hearing’; disabled person; the disabled; the handicapped; invalids; patients; cripples; deformed; afflicted or defective.”

The thing is, being PC is all good and well, but we tie ourselves up in such knots sometimes trying not to offend people that we end up completely missing the point we were trying to make. The thing is, some people get overly sensitive, while others don’t really give a damn. We need to stop trying so hard not to piss people off. It’s exhausting.

Obviously there are things we know not to say. But let’s get real – people in wheelchairs are people in wheelchairs.

I came across an expression recently that I love, and have adopted as an approach to dealing with things that might feel awkward to talk about: If it’s worth taking seriously, it’s worth making fun of. I do that a lot – and I don’t think I am the only South African who does so. We often use humour to create an manageable space where we can deal with big issues like discrimination, politics, crime, cancer, etc. in our own way. It’s not that we don’t believe these issues are serious, it’s just that we need to step away from them a bit in order to process them. At least, I do.

But I digress…

In a previous life I worked in a fairly corporate environment where we tended to prostrate ourselves at the altar of political correctness, ensuring total diversity and inclusivity in every message we sent out. “Happy Holidays,” we would say at this time of year. “We hope you and your loved ones have a peaceful festive season and come back from your break refreshed and ready to tackle the new year.”

Slowly but surely I started feeling awkward wishing people Merry Christmas. What if they don’t celebrate Christmas? What if they’re Buddhist or Hindu or Atheist or Muslim or Jewish or Seventh Day Adventist or Jehovah’s Witness? I became a bit of PC Christmas Grinch. Well, that ends today… on behalf of everyone at CN&CO …


Hope it’s a day of abundance, joy, food, fun and family.

Of course, by “family” we include nuclear, extended, adopted, unrelated, unconventional, aangenaaides, pets, neighbours, Buddhists, Ahteitsts – and every other group mentioned above – or whoever you celebrate with around the tree. After all, one wouldn’t want anybody to feel excluded.

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santa in a wheelchair