Why We Don’t Call Them Handicap Vans

Why We Don’t Call Them Handicap Vans

At Clock Mobility, we are often asked why we don’t call our mobility vans, “handicap vans.” While there are a number of reasons for this, the most direct answer is that our customers are not defined by their disabilities. Their disabilities are not an element of their personal identity, they don’t define them as a person. Instead, we strive to use “person-first terminology” that communicates a different message: that their disability isn’t their defining characteristic and that it is just a small part of who they are.

While there are many origins of the word “handicap,” including several less-than-savory etymologies, it is generally believed that the word comes from a 16th-century barter game called, “hand-in-cap.” Hand-in-cap was a game that aimed to equitably distribute items involved in a trade by using a referee to semi-anonymously determine all parties’ satisfaction with the offered goods. From this game, “handicap” became a term that referred to any activity that aimed to make a contest more equal by imposing penalties on the stronger participants.

This, the most accurate origin of the word, is – indeed – not a very complementary one, as it implies that people with disabilities are at the mercy of these “stronger participants.” It reinforces the idea that a disability defines a person and that their life is primarily guided by coping with that disability. We simply don’t believe that to be true!

At Clock Mobility, we know that our customers are defined by who they are and not by their disabilities. We have removed the old “handicap space” signs at our location and have replaced them with new, more active “blue spaces” that indicate that they are for active wheelchair users. In keeping with that, we also avoid the term handicap van and, instead, use terms like “mobility van,” and “accessible van.” If you’ve been looking to purchase a mobility van from a team that cares, contact us today to discuss how we can help.

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