Last Thursday, Major League Baseball announced that the “Disabled List” was being renamed to the “Injured List”. The move came after disability advocacy groups criticized the term “Disabled List” for being inaccurate. The advocates reasoned that the term implied being “disabled” meant being unable to play sports.
I have cerebral palsy. I am an athlete. I use a wheelchair. I am disabled, but that does not mean I am unable to play sports.
The majority of the reactions I’ve seen to MLB’s name change have been positive, but a handful of people have blamed the decision on “political correctness,” saying that people are too easily offended these days. I believe the people who are reacting this way are fundamentally misunderstanding why this decision was made. It was not made to appease people who are too easily offended. It was made because the term “Disabled List” misrepresents what it means to be disabled.
I have firsthand experience with people not believing that I could play sports because of my disability. A reaction I get all too often when telling people I play wheelchair sports is “Really? I didn’t even know that was a thing!” Of course, I am more than happy to educate people on the subject, because I am very passionate about wheelchair and adapted athletics. At the same time, I am always frustrated when people assume that I’m unable to do something because of my physical limitations. Another reaction that’s common when someone watches or participates in wheelchair sports for the first time is “Wow! This is much more competitive than I thought!” A personal example of this is when former Twin Delmon Young came to a wheelchair softball practice several years ago. I remember him being surprised at how difficult it was. Not only can people with disabilities play sports, they can also be very good at them.
Aside from the implication that disabled individuals are unable to play sports, there’s another major problem with the term “Disabled List.” It suggests that an injury is the same thing as a disability. Sure, injuries can hinder one’s abilities temporarily, and severe injuries can cause permanent disability. Most of the time in sports, however, it’s the former. Some of the injuries are so temporary, in fact, that a player could be placed on the disabled list for ten days. An injury and a disability are not the same thing. The difference is that injuries are temporary and disabilities are not. Another response I’ve seen to this change is, “Well, if a player is injured, they are disabled because they are unable to play.” If being unable to do something makes you disabled, then everyone is disabled, because nobody is able to do everything.
Most of the responses I have seen on this topic came from non-disabled individuals, which made me want to write this post and raise awareness on this topic. As someone who has lived with a disability my entire life and still participates in competitive sports, I felt that I offer a different perspective on this issue. Something a lot of people really struggle with is reacting before they think, and too often, people read about a change and hop on Twitter to talk about how mad they are about it without actually stopping to think about why the change was made. Some people may also dislike this decision for the same reason they don’t like bat flips. They want the game to stay the same way that it always has been. If anything happens that causes baseball to deviate from previous norms, the game is being “disrespected.”
Baseball is a changing game, and we should embrace that fact.