Disability is increasingly salient as a word and increasingly heterogeneous as a category. Multiple interest groups and professions define disability in different ways, making it impossible to achieve a unitary theoretical definition or singular model-explanation of disability as a phenomenon. It is in the interest both of disability scholars and disabled people to acknowledge the multiple understandings of disability, and to appropriate ways of thinking and talking about disability that are often seen as antithetical to a progressive understanding of disability. This particularly applies to medical language, which may be used to deepen our understanding of disability without the traditionally attendant problem of medicalization. Such a project requires a deeper engagement with the particularities of medical language, but also with chronic illness, which is sometimes dichotomized from impairment on spurious grounds. Disability studies should acknowledge the utility of medical language as a tool for people with chronic illnesses as well as impairments to conceptualize their embodied experience, and strive for ways to situate medical language within a socio-politically progressive understanding of chronic illness, impairment, and disability.
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